Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping

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(Photo: Rolex / Ashley Neuhof) (Photo: Rolex / Ashley Neuhof)

You have had great 2022 – what have you enjoyed the most and what are you most proud of?

2022 has been a great year. It has been the first year that things have gone back to normal after the Covid-19 pandemic and it was so great to be back at shows with the spectators there as well. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic we did lose some shows but all in all it has been a positive year.

I have also had a couple of new horses come into my yard that I am very excited about. I have a nine-year-old, Major Tom, who this year has stepped-up to jump in some bigger classes. I am very pleased with how he has handled this, and he will now have some downtime before next year. I have big hopes for him next year.

What are your plans, dreams and ambitions for 2023?

Next year is incredibly important for the Brazilian team as we are looking to gain our qualification for the Olympic Games – so this will be my main goal. We will work towards the FEI Nations Cup™ Final in September and the Pan American Games held in Chile in October. So, 2023 will be a busy year to make sure that we perform well at these events to ensure our place in Paris.

Tell us a little bit about your stable of horses which ones are you most excited about?

Major Tom, a nine-year-old Belgian-bred is my main horse. We have had him for two years, since he was a seven-year-old, and he is owned by Artemis Equestrian Farm. He has a huge amount of ability and quality so we have been trying to produce him as best we can so that he can tackle the big events.

I also have some other very nice horses that are owned by Artemis Equestrian Farm including Chili, Quality FZ and Venice Beach who are all 5* horses that have a lot of experience and are competitive at top level. I am really excited about the horses that I currently have, and I have a lot of hope for 2023.

This year marks the 21st Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final – what is the role of the IJRC role and in your opinion how important is the club for show jumping?

The Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final is organised by the IJRC. We founded the class after I came back from the Tennis Masters in Portugal and I thought that was something that needed to be added in our sport. It is something that is so exclusive, has great prize money and now the riders really fight to get into the Top 10. The riders always bring their best horses to try and win this prestigious class. I am really proud to be part of it and the IJRC make sure that the class is so well run.

I think that the club is so important. We are trying to improve the sport and make sure that we introduce new innovative ideas to the sport to ensure that it evolves in the right way. The IJRC does a tremendous amount of work to ensure that the committee represents all the riders and additional stakeholders such as owners and breeders – it is an important piece of the puzzle of our sport.

In your opinion what do the decision makers and the rights holders need to focus on to keep evolving and progressing the sport?

I think that we really need to focus on promoting the sport across the world to get more mainstream media attention. Sports such as tennis or football take up much of the media attention and sponsorship – so you really have to battle to be in the media much as possible so that we can keep sponsors, ensure the sport develops and keep the prize money improving.

You have recently been elected as the FEI athlete for jumping riders – what will your role be, and what will you be aiming to achieve over the next four years?

I am the voice of the riders, my voice is what comes out of the IJRC board – I try to defend our interest as much as possible as well as guiding and suggesting changes that I think are positive for the sport. So, my job is to promote the views of all riders across the world, and to speak with riders that have problems, especially ones that are not really known or under the radar. I bring them up with the FEI and help them solve their problems so that the sport can continue to grow.

You have had an incredible career as both a rider and a high-performance manager – what else would you love to accomplish?

My focus right now is on competing, especially with the nice stables of horses that I have, so to compete at a high level is my number one objective. Through my role in the IJRC I am focused on moving forward to keep developing the sport – it benefits me, but also everyone.

How positive do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam has been for the sport of show jumping?

I think is very important to have a brand that is as big globally as Rolex to get behind the sport. We are incredibly lucky to have such a great brand behind our sport – they invest a lot of money, not only in the events, but also in media and press to try and put the word out about equestrian sport. Rolex are so famous and prestigious that our sport being linked to them is a huge benefit for us – I would say it is more a plus for us then it is for them, so we are very lucky to have their support.

The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has been incredible for the sport. The Majors are something that riders and owners look forward to and aim towards. All of the Majors, both indoors and outdoors, are phenomenal, and something very special in the calendar.  The Rolex Grand Slam is something that is very difficult to achieve, with only Scott Brash achieving it in 2015 and I do not know if it is something that will be achieved again – but I hope that someone else will do. I think that if someone was going to be able to do it again it would be Daniel Deusser in the next 12 months – he knows how to perform on these big occasions.  

Just like tennis and golf, show jumping has its very own Grand Slam. Which of the other sporting ‘Majors’ do you love watching, and which is your favourite and why?

I am a sports fan in general – I like high quality sport. I love watching Formula One, football, golf and tennis. I think Formula One is my favourite sport to follow but I have been lucky enough to attend some of the Golf and Tennis Majors through my partnership with Rolex, which have been amazing.

What is the best advice someone has given you?

I think it is that patience with horses is the most important thing that you must have. Also, I think that even if things are not going your way, you must keep on pushing and trying and eventually your time will come.

(Photo: Rolex / Ashley Neuhof) (Photo: Rolex / Ashley Neuhof)

The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping returns to CHI Geneva from 7 – 11 December 2022 with an action-packed schedule, including the 21st running of the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final on Friday evening and pinnacle class, the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday afternoon.

Held in the impressive Palexpo in Geneva, the world’s elite horse and rider combinations will tackle some of the toughest tracks of the year, at is what is often considered the sport’s leading indoor show jumping venue. Taking part in this year’s show is a spectacular line-up of athletes including 17 of the top 20 riders, as well as six Rolex Testimonees and 17 riders representing the home nation.

Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping – Rider Watch

After his sensational win at in the CP ‘International’, Presented by Rolex at The CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ Tournament, Germany’s Daniel Deusser will be looking to continue his impressive form in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Majors, having won two of out the last three Grand Prix. Deusser will be aiming to continue his quest to become only the second person to have ever won The Rolex Grand Slam of Showjumping, following fellow Rolex Testimonee Scott Brash’s triumph in 2015. Deusser will also be joined by fellow countryman Gerrit Nieberg, winner of the Rolex Grand Prix held at CHIO Aachen earlier this year.

Home favourite and defending champion, Martin Fuchs, will be the one that everyone has their eyes upon. Having won the last two editions of the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva, the World No.2 understands the precision, bravery and athleticism required by horse and rider to be successful in this prestigious competition. Joining Fuchs is compatriot and three-time winner of the Rolex Grand Prix at this iconic venue, Steve Guerdat, as well as FEI World Championship teammates Edouard Schmitz and Pius Schwizer.

World No.1 Henrik von Eckermann adds to the impressive list of entries this year. The Swedish rider will come to the show brimming with confidence, having been World No.1 for the past four months and following a recent win in the FEI Jumping World CupTM Qualifier in Verona. The double world champion and team Olympic gold medalist will however be looking to claim his first victory in the Rolex Grand Prix in Geneva. Sweden will also be represented by Peder Fredricison. The ever-competitive Peder, who joined Henrik on the podium in Tokyo and Herning will also be aiming to lift the prestigious trophy for the first time.

Last year’s runner-up Harrie Smolders will be hoping to go one better this year to become the first Dutch winner of the class. A strong contingent of riders from France will also head to CHI Geneva this year, including World No.3, Julien Epaillard, the in-form Simon Delestre and Rolex Testimonee Kevin Staut. Staut, a former winner ofboth the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final and the Rolex Grand Prix, will be looking to use his knowledge and experience of how to win in this venue to add the last Rolex Grand Prix of the year to his impressive results this year.

Great Britain will be represented by all members of their FEI World Championship bronze medal-winning team. Ben Maher won the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final last year with his Olympic gold medal-winning partner, Explosion W, and has continued his impressive form throughout the year with new string of horses at the very top of the sport. Scott Brash, is never one to discount in this prestigious class, having won here in 2014 on his way to claiming the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping in 2015. The Under-25 World No.1 Harry Charles will also be in attendance. Having broken into the Top 15 this year, the young British rider has cemented himself as one of the best riders in the world and will be joined by another up-and-coming young rider, Joseph Stockdale, who will be making his debut at CHI Geneva.

Belgium’s Gilles Thomas, who was third at in the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex at The CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ Tournament, will be joined by compatriots Gregory Wathelet, who won the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Royal Windsor Horse Show earlier in the year, and FEI World Championship individual silver medalist, Jérôme Guery.

Other notable entries include Ireland’s Conor Swail, who has recently won both the FEI Jumping World CupTM Qualifiers in Washington and Sacramento, Max Kühner from Austria who was third in the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva last year and the USA’s McLain Ward.

(Photo: Spruce Meadows Media / Dave Chidley) (Photo: Spruce Meadows Media / Dave Chidley)

Congratulations! You are the Rolex Grand Slam Live Contender once again, how are you feeling ahead of CHI Geneva? Which horse do you plan to compete with in the Rolex Grand Prix?

I am feeling confident ahead of CHI Geneva. My horses have been in good shape over the last couple of weeks. I am really looking forward to Geneva as it is a fantastic show, and I have some fantastic memories from past experiences there. I realise that it will be difficult to win this Grand Prix again,  but I definitely have a chance this year. So in the lead up, I am taking it easy.

What have you been up to since winning the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex at CSIO Spruce Meadows  in  September,  and  how  have  you  been  preparing  yourself  and  your  horses  for  CHI Geneva?

With your best horses you are always trying to make the best plan. When thinking of CHI Geneva, I have two horses that come into consideration – Killer Queen [VDM] and Tobago [Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z]. Killer Queen had a couple of weeks off after the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, where she jumped fantastically. I think that she is back in shape and now she feels good. Over the next two weeks, I do not have a show so I will hopefully bring both horses very fresh to Geneva.

I do not really have a plan yet, I still need to make decisions regarding who I am going to jump in the Rolex Grand Prix, and which horse I will use for the Grand Prix qualifier. A lot of this depends on my feelings during the last training week before we leave for Geneva. It will allow me to observe and assess how the horses are feeling. Maybe one will remain a little too fresh that they need to start with a small class and maybe one will be ready to go straight into a big class. Until now, I have had a very good feeling with both of the horses, they both feel very happy and sound, so I am really looking forward to Geneva.

The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping will be celebrating its 10-year anniversary next year – how big an impact has it had on the sport?

With the Rolex Grand Slam, the four shows have created an important source of motivation in our sport. They have created something that is very unique, with an exclusive format that to this day cannot be rivalled. It really pushes the sport to another level, as before you only had one championship at the end of the season. However, nowadays, all show jumpers look to the Rolex Grand Slam, and treat the four shows as four championships throughout the year. It is a fantastic format. Everybody knows how difficult it is to achieve the Rolex Grand Slam. In 2015, Scott Brash achieved it but this is already seven years ago. Since then, no one has come close to achieving this, but during each season all show jumpers aim to do so. I think that this shows the incredible role of the Rolex Grand Slam.

How important is it for a show jumper to keep learning in this sport??

I worked for Franke Sloothaak over the period of four and a half years. He was a top rider for some time, and I learnt a lot from him. To this day, I am still in contact with him regularly. I still learn from him, as he tends to visit every once in a while. I have to say that mentoring programmes may be a bit different to this now but I am actively looking out for successful riders, even younger ones in the arena during show jumping competitions. In a show jumper’s career, no matter how long one has been doing it for, there is still so much to learn, as every animal is different. Their characters change, and riders must constantly adapt and learn to be able to handle or communicate with different horses. And even with my own experience, every year with my horses, I incorporate new trainings with new and old horses for us to constantly learn and improve. It is important to constantly keep learning in this sport, and to observe and study other riders.

What does your diet and nutrition plan look like? How important is diet and nutrition to your overall training programme?

To be honest, I really do not have to monitor my weight, as I am very tall and slim. I think the most important thing in terms of nutrition, is that one has to be aware that the goal is to feel physically fit and comfortable. Obviously, everyone has to adapt their nutrition to themselves and to their body type. As I said, I am a very tall person, which I do not really think is always an advantage in the saddle. In terms of my weight,  I am very lucky that I can still enjoy food and eat whatever I fancy as my weight is easy to manage.

I really try to take the time to do a lot of stretching exercises so my body can remain flexible. Being a tall rider has some disadvantages, and flexibility is a bit of a challenge for me compared to shorter riders. It is important to continually work on flexibility. In our sport, one sits in the saddle for hours at a time, and this is a position where one’s muscles, certainly in the legs, gain strength.

Away from show jumping, how do you relax? What do you love to do?

Nowadays, if I am not training my horses, and not attending a show, I try and spend as much time with my family and young daughter. Before her, I would relax by watching a movie or going on bike rides in the evenings but now that has changed with her around. We take her to hockey training once a week and that is fun. So, yes, I try and spend time with my family.

My wife and daughter play a bit part in my life, and in my overall success in show jumping. There is a lot of travelling when we compete, and this means I am not at home for long periods of time, so people around me need to support and understand my sport and lifestyle. They certainly do this. I am really lucky with my family, as Caroline came from a show jumping background, as well, and is very supportive.

If you weren't a professional show jumper, what would you be doing? Are there any professional sports men who you idolise?

I really do not know what I would be doing if I was not a show jumper. I know for certainty that it would be something to do with the outdoors and that would involve a lot of physical activity. I could not visualise myself sitting in an office throughout the day. It would most likely have been another sport. When I was younger, I played a lot of sports such as tennis, and even rode BMXs.

What would be the perfect day? What would it look like from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep?

My perfect day would be waking up on the Sunday morning of CHI Geneva, and discovering my horses feel great, and then go on to win the Rolex Grand Prix!

What is your favourite holiday that you have been on? Do you find it easy to relax, or do you have to stay active?

It is really hard for me to decide on a favourite one because I have had some amazing summer and winter holidays. When I am away on holiday, I have to stay active. When we were in the Mauritius, I had to do some sort of water sport to ensure that I was doing some physical movement. I cannot spend a couple of days lying still on the beach. This is why I love going on skiing holidays, as you are outdoors and active all day long.

(Photo: Arturo Fasana) (Photo: Arturo Fasana)

What is your earliest equestrian memory?

I am Swiss-Italian, so I can link my first equestrian memories to when I was living in the Italian part of Switzerland, near Lugano. One memory I have is of some great show jumpers, including Graziano Mancinelli, Piero D'Inzeo and Raimondo D'Inzeo, not because I was fond of horses, but because when watching Italian television at that time, they were such big champions. These are the three champions that still come to my mind, and the first ones that introduced me to the equestrian world.

How did you become a top level owner in the sport?

First and foremost, I don’t come from a family in which I was brought up with horses, so I became a show jumping horse owner a little bit by chance. When my daughter decided to take up horse riding for her enjoyment, I bought her a six-year-old in Ireland called Castlefield Eclipse, which was my first top level horse. It is thanks to Eclipse that I discovered my interest and passion for show jumping. I also discovered that I enjoy being surrounded by the very best riders and that I strive to achieve great results. Eclipse competed at the Olympics in London in 2012, then won in St. Gallen, and then received a bronze medal with the Swiss team at the European Championships in Aachen in 2015. So, I became an owner at first by chance but then my love for being an owner was fuelled by the results that my first horse Eclipse achieved.

As an owner, what is the proudest moment of your career so far?

The first memory that comes to mind is Edouard [Schmitz] and Gamin [Van’t Naastveldhof] winning in Dublin – that was something very special but also unexpected. It could be compared to a tennis player winning Wimbledon due to the tradition and the thrilling atmosphere of the show, which makes the competition so unique. Of course, there are other favourite moments, for example, when Eclipse made six clear rounds in the Nations Cup of Rome, Rotterdam and Aachenn. These are very different memories but are still very important to me.

What qualities are you looking for when purchasing a 5* (or a potential 5*) show jumping horse?

I purchase horses that are quite young, usually six- and seven-year-olds. When you purchase those types of horses, there is potential in their legs, for them to jump at the biggest competitions, but this is not everything, this is only one aspect of what one looks for when buying a horse. Physiology, mentality, and agility are also very important when selecting horses. In my opinion, it is very important to train horses thoroughly; one has to be attentive from when they are young, to ensure that things are not done too quickly, to take the time, and to be patient with them. It’s very important to train the horses well for them to be successful at a high level where there is pressure and stress. As I joined this profession quite late, I had to observe other people and gain experience through learning and buying. I was looking at horses that could have the mentality to be able to continuously perform, and to remain at the top. At this high level, you only have three or four percent of the horses that can remain at the highest level and win competitions.

How much involvement does a rider have when you look to buy a new horse?

When we buy new horses, I always want Edouard to give his advice, which is important, as at the end of the day, he is the one who is going to ride the horse. I like to not only receive advice from the rider but from other people when buying horses, as it allows me to make an informative decision.

Tell us a bit about your relationship with Edouard Schmitz?

I have known Edouard since he was young, and everyone recognised that he was a very talented rider.  When I was making decisions on who I wanted to lend my horses to, Edouard came to mind. After discussing with my daughter, we both came to the conclusion that he would be a good choice, as we believed we would be giving a rider the possibility to succeed in the sport. Edouard has always had a very supporting family and it has been such a pleasure to have him as a rider. Our relationship is based on seriousness and humour, and contains a certain lightness, which allows us to not feel too pressured, which is hard in this world. I am not the type of person that would cause stress or pressure, as I believe this can lead to issues, so it’s important for me to have a good relationship with whoever is riding my horses. So, for this reason, I let Edouard decide how to train, and how to handle the horses, as this is not my area of expertise.

How many horses do you currently own, and which is your stand-out horse? Edouard has referred to Gamin Van’t Naastveldhof as ‘the real deal’;

I have two horses with Edouard, a seven-year-old called Karel [Doorman], who has the potential to succeed at a very high level, and an 11-year-old called Babylone Des Erables, who is good but may not have the capability to achieve Karel’s level. Then I have Gamin, who I bought when he was six-years-old – he is my best horse. He is a horse that every rider would love to have, as he has all the qualities that one looks for: power, agility, a fantastic gallop, and he has the mentality.

Which of your young horses do you believe has the potential to be the most successful?

Karel is a horse we hope will succeed at a high level – he is a very quick and careful horse with a great mentality. But as he is only seven, he cannot yet compete in 5* competitions, so this is the only problem that we have with him at the moment. A solution is for us to enter him into some smaller classes, which is a good way to train him and build him up. In a way, Karel has similar qualities to the ones that Gamin had at this age, but he doesn’t have the same body, as Gamin has always been a big horse. Despite this, there is a very good chance that we will succeed, and be able to jump Karel at a high level, but it may be too early to say for sure.

Why do you do it? What is your ambition in being an owner?

My only ambition is passion. I mean, I don't have any special interest at all in horses. In the last 15 years, I have maybe sold only two horses, not because I wanted to do it, but for other reasons. I am really proud that along with Edouard’s family, we have helped him achieve so much, certainly during this last year. This is thanks to his skills and his personal qualities, but also due to the horses that he has.

The Rolex Grand Slam of show jumping, how positive do you believe it is for the sport of show jumping?

The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is absolutely essential at this level and for the sport. A competition that is supported by Rolex is naturally prestigious, so all the riders dream of competing in competitions like CHI Geneva and the other three Majors at some point in their career. Competitions like the Rolex Grand Slam motivate and inspire young people to start riding and to discover the sport, which in my opinion is very important.

(Photo: Hippofoto) (Photo: Hippofoto)

 

What are your plans, dreams and ambitions for 2023?

My ambition and plan for 2023 is to achieve a podium during the European Championships at Riesenbeck International in September.

What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?

The proudest moment of my career so far was when I received the gold medal during the 2020 Junior Swiss Championships at Chalet-à-Gobet. The horse I rode was called Cosby, and I was very proud of our performance, as we did not touch one bar throughout the whole tournament.

How much are you looking forward to CHI Geneva and how confident are you feeling?

I hope to win the prestigious Land Rover U25 Grand Prix at CHI Geneva. However, as the world’s elite attend the event, I would be very happy if I made the top three, so a podium in my age category would be amazing.

When did your love for show jumping start, and who has inspired you the most throughout your career?

I first got into horse riding and show jumping when I was 10 years old. My inspiration was the Dutch show jumper Jeroen Dubbeldam.

What attributes do you believe a successful show jumper needs?

I believe that to be a successful show jumper and rider, you need to be willing, to be motivated to train, to work, to understand the horses, and to constantly understand and provide them with crucial necessities and opportunities. I also believe that to excel in this sport you need a supportive team behind you.

Tell us a little bit about your stable of horses which ones are you most excited about?

My stable is primarily a business, we are constantly training and preparing horses to be sold but I personally own and train 18 horses, and I have competed with most of them. I currently have a young mare who is called Filomene Du Sart, and she will help me achieve great things once I compete with her. I will be taking my best horse to CHI Geneva, a stallion called Arley De Vayrie.

How important is your team – your groom, your farrier, your coach, your vet, your owner?

My team, which comprises grooms, farriers, a coach, and several vets, is very important – they all attend the shows with us. This is for precautions, but we want to ensure that the horses needs are met, and are treated excellently. All the decisions, and as a result the teams’ actions, always have the horses’ needs, and health at heart. In the end, this allows us to excel and succeed whilst achieving positive rankings. We bring a few vets, as they know how to treat the horses, and what’s specific to each of them. All our decisions and actions are made to achieve the best for the horses.

What do you love most about show jumping? Competing, the camaraderie with the other riders, travelling the world…

The aspect that I love the most is that I am show jumping with my national teammates. I am constantly observing and learning from my teammates, specifically the improvements that they are making, and this benefits myself as a competing rider.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

The best piece of advice that I have received is that you truly have to be passionate about our job, show jumping. You not only need to be motivated about training yourself but you need to connect with the horses, which allows you to prosper as a team. Another good piece of advice I’ve received is that in this sport there are a lot of risks but the rewards outweigh them.

How positive do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam has been for the sport of show jumping?

Rolex is an extremely well-known brand, with major prestige. It is every rider’s goal to compete in the Rolex Grand Slam.

Just like tennis and golf, show jumping has its very own Grand Slam. Which of the other sporting ‘Majors’ do you love watching, and which is your favourite and why?

I sometimes watch the tennis Grand Slams, as I looked up to Rolex Testimonee, Roger Federer – being from Switzerland myself, I naturally supported him. From watching the different tournaments, I have noticed the prestige, glamour, and influence of the other Grand Slams, which Rolex is deeply connected with.

What do you do in your free time outside of Show Jumping?

For the majority of my time, I train and look after my horses so I have limited time to myself. However, when I do, I play a lot of football. Another way that I like to relax is by going go-karting with my friends but we do not do this frequently.

If you were stranded on a desert island, which three items would you take with you?

I would bring a boat, as it would allow me to access the closest island nearby, but I would not want to forget about the necessities that I would need to rely on to survive, such as a certain food and a water bottle.

 

Photo: Rolex / Ashley Neuhof Photo: Rolex / Ashley Neuhof

 

The highly anticipated CHI Geneva returns this year from 7 – 11 December with an extra day of competition added to the already speculator schedule of sport and entertainment.

Taking place on Wednesday 7 December, the additional day will enable the introduction of three classes purely dedicated to national competitions. Starting at 1.15m and going up to 1.35m, the classes will be a unique opportunity for amateur riders to compete in one of the most prestigious Show Jumping arenas in the world. Furthermore, these competitors will have the chance to qualify for a brand-new class taking place on the Saturday evening of the show this year, the Credit Suisse Coupe du Jockey Club. This class is a team competition held over one round, with a jump-off if necessary, to determine a final winner. The teams will be made up of two winners from the amateur classes on Wednesday, an international rider, and an eventing rider, thus joining together a range of athletes competing at the show.

Top level international classes start on Thursday 8 December with the Trophée de Genève, held in the evening, providing the first chance to qualify for the prestigious Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday. Prior to this esteemed class will be the first of three classes dedicated to Under-25 riders, showcasing the next generation of top Show Jumpers.

On Friday 9 December, spectators will be treated to the adrenaline filled Indoor Cross-Country presented by Tribune de Genève which will see some of the top Eventers in the world gather to compete during their ‘off season’. The highlight for many on Friday will be the 21st running of the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final, which sees the most elite Show Jumpers fight to be crowned ‘best of the best’, in what is often compared to the Nitto ATP Finals in Tennis.

Competition kicks-off on Saturday with the Land Rover Grand Prix which is the final competition for the Under-25s. CHI Geneva has always prized itself on supporting the next generation and this final class will showcase Show Jumping’s up-and-coming talent in the world’s biggest indoor equestrian arena. Following on from this early morning class there will be plenty of action to keep equestrian fans entertained, including the Coupe de Genève; La Grande Chasse and the Credit Suisse Challenge as well as the first of the Driving classes, the FEI Driving World Cup™ presented by the International Institut de Lancy, which will determine the starting order for the six drivers who will compete in Sunday morning’s Geneva leg of the FEI Driving World Cup™, presented by Radio Télévision Suisse.

The final day of the show is set to be a true spectacle with the pinnacle class of the day being the Rolex Grand Prix, the final Major of 2022. Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs will be looking to make history once again in front of his home crowd by winning the prestigious title for the third time in succession. However, he will have the toughest of competition from 39 of the world’s best horse and rider combinations including Germany’s Daniel Deusser, who has already won two of the three Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Majors this year.

Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof

 

What is your earliest equestrian memory?

My brother and I used to go hunting a lot when I was growing up. So, I think that my earliest equestrian memory was when I was around five-years-old, and we would bet with each other who would fall off the least during the day.

As a rider, what has been your proudest moment this year?

This is easy for me. It was winning the Aga Khan Nations Cup™ at The Dublin Horse Show with Count Me In. It was an incredible moment in my career and winning in front of my home crowd was amazing.

What qualities are you looking for when purchasing a 5* (or potential 5*) show jumping horse?

It is difficult to say – I think everyone is looking for the same thing. They have to have good results and the want to win, and then in terms of qualities I think that carefulness and the ability to do the right thing when it is needed are so important.

How did you become a top-level owner in the sport?

This happened because I didn’t have any big sponsors or owners, so I had to do it by myself. Now, I am very lucky because a good friend of mine, Conall Murray at Mannon Farm, has started to purchase horses with me. Together we own Count Me In, Vital Chance De La Roque and Nadal Hero & DB who are my three best horses. Having the support from him has been incredible and makes it a lot easier on me when I can split the cost of the horse.

As an owner, what is the proudest moment of your career so far?

I am very proud of what I was able to achieve without the help of numerous owners. Obviously, I would have preferred some more financial help so that I could have bought more horses and given myself more chance to win. But I am very proud of what I have done on a limited budget, and I have been loving the last couple of years of my career.

How do you balance your dual roles as a world-class rider and a top-level owner?

I find it quite easy. I think that it is all about having a good schedule for the horses. As a rider, I have to travel around a lot, but I always make sure that none of the horses are doing too much at any one time. I try to make sure that their balance between work and rest is right and that the horses are fit, otherwise they do not perform at their best.

How are you preparing for CHI Geneva?

I am bringing my best horses, Count Me In and Vital Chance De La Roque. I jumped Count Me In indoors at The Washington International Horse Show last weekend where he won the FEI Jumping World Cup™ Qualifier. He will go to Toronto next week, and then have a few weeks off before we go to CHI Geneva.

Vital Chance De La Roque jumped in Sacramento a couple of weeks ago, where he also won the FEI Jumping World Cup™ Sacramento presented by GV23 Wines. He will go to Las Vegas next, which is about a month before CHI Geneva. Both horses have been jumping really well indoors and will have had a couple weeks rest before CHI Geneva – so I hope they will continue their form until the end of the year.

How many horses do you have in at the moment? Are there any young horses that people should be looking out for?

At the moment I only have five or six. I haven’t got too many young ones at the moment. Usually I have some in Ireland that I will produce over there and then if I think there are any future 5* horses, I will bring them over to North America when they are eight-years-old.

You must be incredibly proud of Count Me In; tell us a little bit about him, including when you first noticed his potential? What makes him stand out from other 5* horses?

Before I purchased him, I knew the horse relatively well. He was jumping on the circuit with Beth Underhill and was always a successful horse who was very careful and who jumped a lot of clear rounds, although not at the level he is jumping at now.

So, when he became available, I decided to take the risk on him, even though he was 14-years-old. The gamble has really paid off and I think that he has surprised not only me but a lot of other people. He has been an incredible horse to me, and we have a great partnership. He continues to go from strength to strength – he has changed my career and I have only had him for just over a year.

What are your hopes and ambitions for 2023 and beyond?

I think that your ranking is a reflection on the consistency of success that you are achieving – I am very proud of the fact that week in and about that my horses are able to win and place well in a lot of very big competitions. But a big aim of mine would be to win a medal at a major championship.

I passed on the opportunity to compete at the FEI World Championships this summer with Count Me In. I think that for a horse of his age, it was too big an ask to jump over numerous days. I did not want overexert him or for him to hurt himself. I think that if we had gone then we would have done well, or even won a medal because of his quality. But it was the right for the horse and his longevity in the sport to not go. It is so important to make the right decision for your horses and keep their best interests at heart.

How positive do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam is for the sport of show jumping?

The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is the most prestigious series in the sport. The prize money is incredible, and it is made up the best shows in the world. It is a privilege to jump at the Majors when you have a horse good enough to do so.

Out of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping's four Majors, which is your favourite, and why?

CHIO Aachen is obviously a very special place. I also spend a lot of time at Spruce Meadows and compete there all summer – the venue is just so incredible. CHI Geneva is also one of the best indoor shows in the world. But I think I would have to say CHIO Aachen is my favourite, you only go there once a year, which I think makes it more special, and the crowds are amazing.

Who has inspired you the most throughout your career?

I admire a lot of the great riders, and I try to watch and learn as much as possible from them. If I had to choose one, then I would have to say John Whitaker. I think that he is one of the most naturally talented riders – he has had a lot of very different horses and he rides them all unbelievably well. His longevity is incredible, and he has always been very inspirational to me.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

You should always believe in your own ability. Throughout your career you are going to have good and bad results, so you must believe in yourself and your ability to keep moving forwards.

What do you love to do away from show jumping?

I love sport and I really enjoy playing golf or watching sports when I get the opportunity.

Photo: Rolex / Ashley Neuhof Photo: Rolex / Ashley Neuhof

 

You have had a great year, what has been your highlight?

I have an such an amazing year – it is hard for me to pick just one highlight! I had my first 5* victory in the King George V Gold Cup at Hickstead in July which was amazing, and then coming third in the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex at the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ Tournament was a fantastic result. Most recently being on the Belgium team and winning the FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final was incredible for me. I don’t think I can choose just one of those moments!

What are you hoping to achieve between now and the end of the year?

I am hoping to ride at CHI Geneva – that would be amazing. Then in Belgium we have the have a 5* show which includes a FEI Jumping World Cup™, in Mechelen, between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. This show is always very important to Belgian riders, and my family are involved in the organisation of it, so I really hope I can have a good result in the FEI Jumping World Cup™ there.

What are your hopes and ambitions for 2023 and beyond?

My ultimate dream is to compete at CHIO Aachen, in my opinion it is the best show in the world and the Rolex Grand Prix there is one of the most prestigious classes in the calendar. I am also aiming to compete in a Belgium senior team at a big championship. I have competed in Junior and Young Rider teams, but to be part of the Belgium team at the FEI World Championships or the Olympic Games and win a medal would be a dream come true.

After your great performance in the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex at The Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ Tournament, how will you prepare for CHI Geneva?

I’m not totally sure whether I will be competing there yet, but I hope that I will. They are two very different shows, but I would still take Aretino 13, as even though the arena at CHI Geneva is indoors, it is still very big. If I go to CHI Geneva, it will be the only indoor show that Aretino 13 competes in because he is a big horse and needs more space, so suits outdoor arenas better. CHI Geneva is such an amazing show and so I will plan to take my three best horses if I go.

Tell us a little bit about your current stable of horses and their personalities…

I am very lucky at the moment because I have a stable filled with very high-quality horses, and that has enabled me to have such a successful season. I have around 12 horses in total and four of them can jump in a 5* Grand Prix. I also have some very talented seven and eight-year-olds that I have very high hopes for the future.

Which of your young horses are you most excited about?

I have an eight-year-old stallion called Ermitage Kalone by Catoki. He has been breeding a lot this year and is very popular in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. He is a very good jumping horse and is well bred himself which is why I think he has been so popular.

Next year he will turn nine-years-old and so we will start to jump him more – he is currently jumping at 1.45m and in 2* Grands Prix and finding it very easy. My plan is that next year he will be my second horse for the 5* shows, and I will hopefully take him to a 3* FEI Nations Cup™ – we will build him up slowly throughout the year. I think that he will really start to be a top horse in 2024.

What keeps you motivated?

I love the feeling of winning and achieving top results, and this year has really given me that experience. It has been an amazing year, where I have been able to go to some of the best shows in the world, where the organisation is amazing and I am competing against my idols. Of course, there are a lot of shows in the calendar, and you have to go to most of them to keep your rankings points up, but I am very lucky that I have enough top horses to swap them out across the season to keep them fresh.

The Belgium team has been so successful this year, how does it feel to be riding on the same team as great riders such Wathelet, Philippaerts, Guéry, etc.

At the beginning of the year, I was third in a big class in Miami, and both Jérôme Guery and Gregory Wathelet messaged me to say they hoped that they we would compete on the same team this year, but I never thought it would happen.

My call-up to the Belgium team came sooner than I thought, and I was selected for the Nations Cup™ team in Falsterbo, where we won. I was then also selected for the FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final in Barcelona where I was on a team with Jérôme, Gregory and Olivier [Philippaerts], where we also won and gained Olympic qualification. Everything this year has happened so quickly, but it has been so incredible to be part of such a successful team. It has been amazing to compete on the same team as them as they are fantastic riders and have had such successful careers.

As a young rider, what does the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping mean to you? How positive do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam is for the sport of show jumping?

I think that it is so positive for the sport. The four Majors are at the best shows in the world, and they are so good at ensuring everything perfect for the horses – of course the prize money is incredible as well. There are so many 5* shows but the Majors really stand out to be as something to aim and prepare for, they are the top of the top. I think for riders, these Majors really motivate us, and we want to try and produce our best results there.

Which is your favourite Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major and why?

Even though I had such a great result at CSIO Spruce Meadows, I think I have to say CHIO Aachen. I live in Belgium, but Aachen is only around an hour drive from my yard. I have been and spectated there a few times and I think it is the best show in the world – I really hope I get to compete there one day.

Who has inspired you the most throughout your career?

My uncle, Marc van Dijck. He is also my trainer and has competed at the top level of the sport as well as representing the Belgium team. Around 10 or 15 years ago he was competing at CSIO Spruce Meadows and CHIO Aachen, and he was actually third in Aachen. He gives me the best advice, but I am also super motivated to make sure that I beat his results!

What is the best piece of advice that you have been given?

I am a very competitive person, so I think the best piece of advice I was given was that it is better to ride for second place and not for first place, and you will eventually win more. I really think this is true because you ride a bit slower, and it allows the time to build up their confidence and ability.

What is a typical day for you at home?

When I am at home, I ride around eight or nine horses. At the moment, my uncle manages my stables which enables me to focus solely on riding the horses, which is great for me. I try to ride all the horses in the morning. We have a lot of young horses as part of our breeding programme, and so in the afternoon I spend my time with the foals and free jumping the younger horses. It is very exciting to see the next generation of horses that we have at the stables.

What do you do in your free time outside of Show Jumping?

I do not have a lot of free time because most shows are on the weekends, but when I am free, I like to meet up with my friends and go for a drink or to a restaurant. I don’t see them that often – so I really appreciate the time I spend with them. I am also very sporty, so play squash once a week with a friend.

If you were stranded on a desert island, which three items would you take with you?

Definitely my pillow – I have to take this everywhere I go, otherwise I get neck pain. Then I think a pocketknife to help me survive, they are always useful. Finally, a speedboat, so that I can get home!

(Photo: Spruce Meadows Media / Dave Chidley) (Photo: Spruce Meadows Media / Dave Chidley)

Daniel Deusser and Killer Queen VDM win the CP 'International', presented by Rolex at Spruce Meadows

The German rider is the new Rolex Grand Slam Live Contender

 

A typically enormous and challenging Leopoldo Palacios-designed course awaited 38 of some of the world’s finest horse and rider combinations, as they contested the pinnacle class of ‘Masters’ week, the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex, part of the Rolex Grand Slam series, in Spruce Meadows’ iconic International Ring.

In the opening round, no clears after the first 20 starters and a string of DNFs was testament to the gravity of the test that the partnerships faced, with the triple combination after the water jump just one of the obstacles catching lots out. However, 24-year-old Gilles Thomas from Belgium and his 14-year-old gelding, Aretino 13 soon proved that Venezuelan Palacios’ course was rideable, after confidently clearing the 14 obstacles fault-free in a time of 84.72. Despite accruing four faults, Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender, Gerrit Nieberg and his partner in the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen in July, Ben 431, jumped fluently and remained very much in contention. Shortly afterwards, McLain Ward demonstrated his and his superstar mare HH Azur’s class and harmony, notching up the second clear of the round in 83.73 seconds.

Swiss Steve Guerdat and his 13-year-old gelding Venard De Cerisy, looked inspired, recording the day’s third clear in a time of 85.53 seconds. After exceeding the 86-second limit, a time fault for Dutchman Harrie Smolders and his 2019 CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex winning horse, Darry Lou, blemished what was an otherwise flawless round. 2021 CHIO Aachen Major-winning duo, Germany’s Daniel Deusser recorded the fourth clear of the day and the final one of the first round. Six further combinations progressing to the second round, included Mexicans Eugenio Garza Perez and Manuel Gonzalez Dufrane, Swede Peder Fredricson, Rolex Testimonee Martin Fuchs of Switzerland, Irishman Paul O’Shea, and Brazil’s Francisco Jose Mesquita Musa.

The top 12-placed horses and riders from the first round faced a second round comprising even taller fences over a slightly shortened course, with a time limit of 72 seconds. Fifth to go, Martin Fuchs and his 10-year-old grey gelding looked pure class, breezing the course without fault in 69.80 seconds, the first of three consecutive clears with bringing four faults from the first round, which also included Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender, Gerrit Nieberg and Brazilian Eugenio Garza Perez and his 11-year-old stallion, Contago. However, their hopes were short-lived after 2021’s winning duo of the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex, Steve Guerdat and Venard De Cerisy, were the first pair to go double clear. Current world number 39-ranked rider Gilles Thomas went next and, much to the delight of the Calgarian crowd, also went clear, meaning a  jump-off was triggered. Rolex Testimonee Daniel “Double D” Deusser and his 12-year-old mare Killer Queen VDM made it three in jump-off. And it appeared that Friday’s winner of the Tourmaline Oil Cup, McLain Ward, would make it four, but agonisingly rolled the first of the double Liverpool. A wide-open third round jump-off was set and the knowledgeable crowd waited on in anticipation.

First up, Steve Guerdat put down the first of the double, crossing the finish line with four faults in 41.70 seconds. Next to go, Gilles Thomas nudged and rolled the CP fence and put the final fence down, crossing the line with eight faults in 42.31 seconds. Daniel Deusser calmly entered the International Ring and meticulously navigated the eight-fence jump-off, crossing the finish line within the time limit, thereby winning the 2022 CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex and becoming the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender.

On winning the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex, Deusser, said: “It is an historic Grand Prix here, it’s a class that I’ve followed since I was very, very small. I watched it on television, and I still have VHS cassettes at home that have the Grand Prix here. I’ve watched it over and over again, and I could never imagine to be here, so to win the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex here in Spruce Meadows is a fantastic feeling.”

Thrilled with his mare Killer Queen VDM, Deusser, commented: “She had a fantastic week, to be honest. I started the first day with a small class and I was doubting to jump her in a big competition, but in the end I jumped her in the big class on Friday, just because she has never been here in the International Ring. I think it was a good decision today, she jumped three fantastic clear rounds and she will definitely have a big, big dinner tonight and some carrots and sweets!”

(Photo: Spruce Meadows Media / Jack Cusano) (Photo: Spruce Meadows Media / Jack Cusano)

Meet the Next Gen:

Dylan Munro

 

What are your plans between now and the end of the year?

As of right now, the older horses that I have here at Spruce Meadows will get a bit of time off and then we’ll be back here in October for Oktoberfest with some of the younger horses. After that, we will have some time off before we head down to Thermal for the winter circuit for the first four months of next year.

What makes Spruce Meadows such a special place to compete at?

I’ve grown up around here, and as a kid you come here and you always dream of competing in the International Ring with the best in the world. The history here, it’s just iconic, and it’s really a dream come true to be able to compete here.

What’s the proudest moment of your career so far?

The proudest moment of my career so far would probably be earning the right to compete in the International Ring once during the Summer Series. I had just stepped up to 1.40m during the Summer Series, so to qualify to compete out there was awesome.

Who’s inspired you the most throughout your career so far?

Most recently, I’d have to say both of my coaches, Kelly Koss-Brix and Ben Asselin. I’ve really enjoyed them taking me under their wings and really showing me the ropes of show jumping and giving me the opportunity to ride some incredible horses.

What keeps you motivated and hungry for success?

What keeps me motivated is that there’s always more, you want to achieve the biggest and the best in the sport, the goal is to be able to jump on Sunday here and to jump in the biggest Grands Prix. All of that motivates me to keep going and keep working as hard as I do.

Tell us a little bit about the horses you have here this week…

I have Face to Face here, or as we know him in the barn ‘Frankie’. I love the horse to death, he’s done so much for me and for my riding career. We’ve really built quite the amazing partnership, and I’m just thrilled what he and I have achieved over the summer. He’s been a great horse for me and I can’t say enough good things about him.

The other mare I have here is Castelle [Van Het Beeckhof Z], she’s owned by Telsec Farm. I’ve been fortunate enough for them to give me the opportunity to ride the horse. She’s a typical mare, she has a bit of an attitude and always wants it to be her idea. But she really is an incredible jumper and I think she has big things in her future to come.

Have you got any young horses you think will be future superstars?

I personally don’t have any young horses of my own, but the one that Ben and Kelly have me riding at home called Macgyver, he’s a full brother to Ben’s good horse Makavoy, who’s now retired and is enjoying his good life out in the field. He’s slowly coming along and figuring it out and I really think he has some top potential.

What’s the best advice someone has ever given to you?

Just this past week Ben said to me that I’ve done all of the hard work outside of the ring so at the end of the day I just have to go into ring and compete. He said I have to trust in the work and processes that I’ve done and the countless hours that I’ve spent training, which will pay off inside the ring. I just have to go in the ring and be competitive and believe that I have the opportunity to win every class.

How positive do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam has been for the sport of show jumping?

I think it’s been amazing. It’s really brought public support back to show jumping and made people really interested in the sport. I haven’t been to Europe to witness some of the big events there. Being here and being able to see the public’s interest and how into the sport they actually get, it’s been great and it’s really good for the sport.

Away from show jumping, what do you love to do?

I actually try to help out at my family’s home farm, as much as I can. I really enjoy hockey and going to the Calgary Flames’ games in the winter here as much as I can. Overall, I just really enjoy sports in general.

(Photo: Spruce Meadows Media / Mike Sturk) (Photo: Spruce Meadows Media / Mike Sturk)

Word from the organiser:

Linda Southern-Heathcott

 

You must be delighted that this year’s edition of the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ is going ahead with full capacity?

Absolutely, it’s so great to be back. Someone must be looking down on us because we’ve got beautiful sunshine, we’ve had amazing sport, and it’s just wonderful to have all the elements come together.

Is there anything new this year that CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ has introduced?

The biggest thing that we’ve introduced this year has been the demonstrations and we really wanted to highlight dressage. I think that in Canada there’s been a need to really promote dressage. It’s a very fast growing sport, it’s very elegant and it seems to me that the fans have really enjoyed it. We’ve had two wonderful performers, who are Canadians and are CDI winners. One has just recently returned from the World Championships, while the other is an up and coming athlete. It was kind of fun, but the horses were well matched and they did a wonderful performance on Friday night and they will next kick off the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex.

What qualities do you look for in team members? And what makes a successful team?

The biggest quality is that the team works together, both in good times and bad. They have to hunker down and really try and find solutions to the issues that are presented, and they should turn those challenges into opportunities. For me, that’s the biggest thing.

What is your advice to someone who wants to get into the sporting events industry?

The biggest advice I would give, which isn’t my strong suit, would be patience. I would also encourage people to set their goals, to understand them and to always work towards them. I believe that one of the biggest fundamental threads for all four of the Grand Slam events is that we’re all in it for the long game. It’s not about a quick fix or immediate results, it’s about building the sport and being committed to the sport, building all of the stakeholders, whether it’s the athletes, our fans, our sponsors, or the media. It’s about keeping all of those elements together and moving the sport forward.

For you, what makes a successful major sporting event?

It needs to be exciting. Each of the Rolex Grand Slam events are unique and they each have a different feel. In the sport right now, I believe that there’s a little bit of a numbing sameness. The Masters in golf is different to the U.S. Open Championship, and in Formula One the Monaco Grand Prix is different to the Dutch Grand Prix. Being unique and being true to your culture and character is one component. Having the ingredients of the top athletes is another. And then allowing the sport and the competitiveness to take over so, as a spectator, you can watch and really enjoy the intensity, and be entertained and thrilled. If you have all of those ingredients, I believe you will have a successful event.

(Photo: Spruce Meadows Media/Jack Cusano) (Photo: Spruce Meadows Media/Jack Cusano)

McLain Ward and HH Azur capture the Tourmaline Oil Cup

 

No fewer than 49 horse and rider combinations, including four of the world’s current top-10-ranked riders, contested the highlight class of day two of the CSIO5* Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, the 1.60m Tourmaline Oil Cup. Venezuelan course designer Leopoldo Palacios appeared to have set a tough task, with many of the world’s leading riders unable to negotiate the 12-obstacle course fault-free and progress to the jump-off. However, much to the delight of the International Ring’s crowd, a small flurry of partnerships bucked the trend towards the end of the class, thereby setting up a scintillating six-horse jump-off, which was later reduced to four after Daniel Bluman from Israel and Ladriano Z, and third placed in the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen, Nicola Philippaerts and Katanga v/h Dingeshof decided not to compete.

The four duos contesting the final show-down included American McLain Ward and HH Azur, Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping champion and Rolex Testimonee, Scott Brash and Hello Jefferson, fellow Rolex Testimonee Daniel Deusser from Germany and his 11-year-old stallion, Bingo Ste Hermelle, and Harrie Smolders and his superstar stallion Darry Lou, who knows this arena better than most, having triumphed here in the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex in 2019 with previous partner Beezie Madden.

An eight-fence jump-off awaited the four pairs with Scott Brash first to go, who notched up a double clear in 45.92 seconds. He was followed by McLain Ward, who stormed around the course without a fault, beating Brash’s time by over five seconds. That left Deusser and Smolders, who both went clear, but neither were able to better the American’s unassailable lead, with the German slotting into second place and the Dutchman finishing third.

Thrilled with his win and his 16-year-old mare, McLain Ward, commented: “Horses understand the importance and the energy differently than we do. I think these great horses sense the atmosphere and want to do well and want to please and want to rise to the occasion. She walked up to the gate today and she raises her head, her eyes are right on the arena, ears pricked, this horse is pulling me in to go and do the job, so she understands it in some ways for sure.”

Looking ahead to Sunday’s CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex and how he will prepare himself, Ward, said: “I have enough experience now. I just try to focus on my job and believing in our plan and believing in the horse, and you need a bit of good fortune also.”

(Photo: Spruce Meadows Media/Mike Sturk) (Photo: Spruce Meadows Media/Mike Sturk)

Rider Interview:

Matthew Sampson

 

You’ve had some amazing successes here at Spruce Meadows – what makes it such a special place to compete at?

I came here for the first time last year and then again this year for the Summer Series, which has been fantastic. I’ve been lucky enough to win two 5* Grands Prix with two different horses. The horses just grow here and the facilities are the best in the world, so I’m just very grateful to be able to ride at this show.

Which horses will you be competing with this week at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’?

For the 5* I’ve got two horses including Ebolensky, who won the 5* here last week, and then I’ve got Fabrice DN, who will be doing the Grand Prix [CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex], so that’s my plan. They’re both super horses, both very different. One’s owned by Luis Alejandro Plascencia from Mexico, and the other one is owned by me and the Evison family in England. Both horses are great and I’m looking forward to a good week.

You and Fabrice DN won the RBC Grand Prix of Canada CSI 5* in June and you gave a lot of credit to your team. Tell us how important your team is to your successes…

I couldn’t be doing any of it without them – Kate, Brad, my girlfriend Kara and all the guys at home. Alongside those people, I can’t forget my owners and my parents, who brought me up to do this. Often it’s not talked about enough but there’s a massive team behind me who get these horses feeling as good as they can for the day.

Have you got any young horses that you believe have the potential to be future 5* Grand Prix winners?

I have a horse call King Lepatino, who’s jumped here and is owned by Cumberland Acres, which is an American stable. He’s a seven year old and made his international debut here in the International Ring and he did a lovely clear round so I have high hopes for him.

Who’s inspired you most throughout your career?

My parents first of all who are always pushing me forward with lots of confidence. Rider wise, I think John and Michael Whitaker – I’ve grown up watching those guys. My good friend Scott Brash, who’s obviously done fantastically well here. We did a lot together when we were younger so he’s always there for advice. There are many others including Duncan Ingles who I worked for when I was younger and who’s helped me a lot.

Away from show jumping, what do you love to do, what makes you tick?

Anything competitive. Most of the time we don’t get many chances to do anything else, so just seeing my family is the most important thing when I’m not at a show.

What’s the proudest moment of you career so far?

I think winning my first 5* Grand Prix here at Spruce Meadows, which was a life-long ambition, it’s what every rider strives to achieve so that really stands out.

How positive do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam has been for the sport of show jumping?

It’s just incredible. It’s the most exciting things our sport has. There are so many Grands Prix but these ones are absolutely the best. To have the best venues that host these Grands Prix is just fantastic for the sport so thank you to Rolex for that.

(Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof) (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof)

Walk the course with:

Leopoldo Palacios

 

What’s a typical day for you like at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’?

I normally get up at 6am, arriving at the showground at 7am. I will finish quite late tonight, at around midnight, as I have to wait for the ATCO Six Bar to finish, after which I’ll build tomorrow morning’s course. I’ll then arrive here early tomorrow morning to put some finishing touches to the course, which is all part of my job.

Away from course designing, what are your passions?

My main passion is horses. I love horses. The other thing I like is deep-sea fishing for marlin and tuna, which my father also loved. But just fishing for them, not swimming with them! My family used to have a special fishing boat, which my father would use for competitions in Venezuela. Towards the end of my father’s life, after he finished farming, he would go fishing, and I would go with him, so that’s how my love of fishing started. My home country, Venezuela, is an absolute paradise for fishing marlin, and also the Caribbean. That life runs very much in parallel to my course designing career.

What advice would you give to someone young who wants to become a professional course designer?

The first piece of advice I would give them is that you have to love horses. I would also tell them that you need to have passion and not be driven by money, as this is not a job for money. You can absolutely survive and I have a good life; but this job is all about loving the horses and having passion for the sport. Technically, I would recommend that a young course designer learns about geometry and having the skill to draw, so as to be aware of scale and to ensure you have great plans. Understanding horses and learning about them is also crucial, specifically being able to read their expressions to see when they’re happy or sad. So, a good balance of technical skill and feeling is what someone wanting to be a course designer should have. Finally, you need to build the very best courses that you can, and make the riders compete against one another and not against you and your course.

What’s your favourite ever memory from your course designing career?

That’s a very difficult question, but one day that I was really happy and when my heart was pumping was when Scott Brash won the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping here. That day the stadium was full and there was total silence in the International Ring – all you could hear was Hello Sanctos. In my opinion, what Rolex is doing for this sport is fantastic. Another moment for me that was very emotional was at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000. Never in the history of the Olympics did the Individual jump-off have just three horses in it to determine the three medal. That was always my dream and something I asked for. And I had it. In that moment I went crazy and I was jumping all over the place when it happened. And it didn’t happen with double clears, it happened with faults in both rounds.

As head course designer, where and when did you design your first course?

I designed my first course as lead designer in Venezuela in 1976. I then designed my first international course in the North and South American League in 1977.

Who has inspired you throughout your career?

My main inspirations were Arno Gego and Pamela Carruthers, they were two of my mentors. I worked with both of them for many, many years. Over a three year period I was Arno Gego’s assistant and I learned an awful lot from him, and he became like my father after this. 

Finally, tell us about the course you’ve designed for Sunday’s CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex, and who you believe will win the class…

I never like to build courses that don’t balance, so for Sunday I will make sure that if I include a long distance, I will also include a short distance, and then a normal distance. In this way, the course will appeal to all of the horses and riders.

This year I think we have a super field of horses and the quality is very high – the best of the best. Normally, when I look at the startlist for the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex and I think about how the horses have been jumping throughout the week, I can pick between 15-20 horses who could be in with a chance of winning. But this year I think up to 30 combinations will be in with a good chance of winning. I think that riders have started to understand the significance of the Rolex Grand Slam and they’re saving their horses for this incredible opportunity.

(Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof) (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof)

Conor Swail wins the CANA Cup

 

Staged in the iconic International Ring on a sunny but chilly Calgarian day, 37 combinations from 17 nations – each with their sights firmly set on qualifying for Sunday’s CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex – contested the 1.60m CANA Cup on day one of the 2022 edition of the CSIO5* Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’. Stand-out riders included current world number one-ranked rider, Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann, Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping champion, Scott Brash from Great Britain, American McLain Ward, and former Major winner, Austrian Max Kühner.

Designed by Leopoldo Palacios, six partnerships completed the Venezuelan’s 12-obstacle first round course fault-free; however, out of those six riders, Frenchman Kevin Staut and Daniel Bluman from Israel chose not to return, meaning just four riders lined-up in the jump-off. These riders included Belgium’s Olivier Philippaerts, Marc Dilasser of France, Irishman Conor Swail, and the current world number 18-ranked rider from Germany and Rolex Testimonee, Daniel Deusser.

First into the arena, Olivier Philippaerts and his 11-year-old stallion Le Blue Diamond V't Ruytershof finished with four faults, as did second to go Daniel Deusser and his 11-year-old stallion, Bingo Ste Hermelle. On form Conor Swail – currently sitting fourth in the world rankings – and his 15-year-old gelding, Count Me In, made no mistake, confidently navigating the shortened course fault-free in a time of 43.46 seconds. Last to go, Frenchman Marc Dilasser looked strong in the early stages; however, he and his 10-year-old gelding Chamann Has eventually put the penultimate fence down, finishing in third place overall.

Delighted with his win and lauding the support of his team, Swail commented: “I get on every day and ride for an hour or two, but they’re the ones putting in all the hard work, making sure he [Count Me In] is healthy, ensuring he’s travelling from A to B correctly. We’re obviously very good at what we do but it’s the team behind you that makes it all work and makes the success happen.”

And on qualifying for Sunday’s Rolex Major, Swail said: “I’m very excited because my horse is on good form. He’s already jumped here during the summer and he’s been second in the Grand Prix [CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex] here. He always gives me good chances, so if I have a bit of luck on Sunday we’ll hopefully be knocking on the door in or around the top spot.”

(Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof) (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof)

Rider Interview:

Amy Millar

 

Which horses will you be competing with this week?

I have two horses here, Christiano and Truman. They’re both bay geldings and I’ve been riding them for a while. They’re fantastic horses – they’re solid, brave, kind and scopey, so I’m optimistic about our chances this week!

Why is Spruce Meadows such an incredible place to come and compete at?

It’s such a beautiful ring here. When you walk under that clock tower and there’s the formal nature of saluting the sponsor, coupled with the courses always being really challenging, it means it’s never boring here. What’s truly special about the ‘Masters’ is the crowd and the quality of the animals here. It’s so good for Canada to have this quality of horses and riders coming to our country. Since covid, it’s been really hard in Canada, so to now have attracted all of these great Europeans and the best in the world is really exciting.

What are your plans for this week, particularly looking ahead to Sunday’s CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex?

Qualifying is of course important. My best horse is Truman, who has to jump the Nations Cup on Saturday, and then jump again on Sunday. He’s a solid horse and he’s definitely fit enough to do everything. It will all just come down to recovery, especially if we jump two hard rounds on Saturday. It’s going to be about him feeling his best and having lots of energy for Sunday, and then we see what happens.

Tell us about the World Championships and the all-female Canadian show jumping team…

The World Championships was a great experience. Being surrounded by that quality of horse and rider and professionalism was incredible. The courses were difficult but fantastic, and there was zero margin for error. Being in that environment, it just makes you want to up your game. Yes, there’s always room to be better, but being around that quality inspires me to be better.

As far as the all-female team is concerned, I had a fantastic time. With those girls – Tiffany, Beth and Erryn – we had a great time together and we all get along really well. We’re all really strong women, we’re really different but at the end of the day we’re fighters. I really enjoyed spending time with them and fighting that battle.

Do you have any young horses, who you have high hopes for?

I’m riding two really nice eight year olds right now. One of them is called Jagger Hx and I have very high hopes for him. He’s scopey, he’s careful, and with a little bit more training, I hope that he makes it all the way. The other one is a little Irish mare called Athena. She’s fast and careful and a real player. If those two come up the way I want them to be, then I will have another one-two punch coming right behind Christiano and Truman. That’s the goal in terms of longevity and sustainability.

What has the Rolex Grand Slam done for the sport of show jumping?

The Rolex Grand Slam has been so special for show jumping. I had a little conversation with the Rolex team when I was in Europe and they were explaining to me about their brand and how they try to only associate with excellence because that is their brand. Then I look at the horse shows and riders they sponsor. I look at the quality of their watches and it really resonates with me that Rolex is all about excellence. So every time you go to one of these Rolex Majors, you know everything is going to be amazing the highest level of competition. As I say, it’s truly inspiring.

What do you love to do away from show jumping?

Well, I have two children – I have a four year old and a 12 year old. I also have a wonderful husband, who doesn’t ride horses. When I’m not riding I spend as much time as possible with them. Just being around my family is what I want to do when I’m not riding.

(Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof) (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof)

Word from the Organizers:

Ian Alisson

 

You must be thrilled to have fans back at CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, who will add to the atmosphere in the International Ring and also for TV audiences at home around the world?

The last two years have been very unusual and, in some respects, difficult. Of course, not being able to organise tournaments in Canada in 2020 and then running under a national interest exemption last year, which was very restrictive, that at least allowed us to try and find our game legs. Coming back now has been like dragging a boat out of a dry dock; we had some personnel challenges, the sport has changed and there are new players coming in, so it’s tremendously exciting for the venue itself, all of our constituents, including the riders, the media, the fans and also the corporate supporters. Our corporate supporters have been wonderful, we have a fantastic media support and this is the best entry list we’ve ever had for the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, which is fantastic!

Can you tell us about the new partnership with Sportsnet?

We’ve worked with Sportsnet on a number of occasions. What happened during the pandemic is that we started thinking of bringing things in-house because we couldn’t have a lot of people inside the property, so streaming has become much more prevalent and acceptable. We started discussions and they were welcomed enthusiastically, and we were able to expand to run 13 consecutive weeks on Sportsnet, in prime time, on both a live and delayed basis.

One of the interesting things about this sport is that while it has a core audience, it also has an  audience of passionate fans who are also horse people, who are usually busy with horses on their weekends. We felt that if we could bring something with a live offering of every event, where you’d never miss a round out of the International Ring, plus something that would allow people to watch highlights, then it might be the time to do it. We decided to make a business plan and talked to Sportsnet, and honestly discussions were short because they knew the property and our way of working, and they knew we have a coast-to-coast audience in Canada because of the great amount of interest we’ve been cultivating throughout the years.

The collaboration started this year and it’s been terrific since the beginning. This Sunday we’ll have three hours telecast on Sportsnet from coast-to-coast and also because of their schedule flexibility and the number of platforms they have, people will be able to watch it throughout the week, because people might be more interested in watching the start of the NFL season or the US Open Final this weekend. It’s a really busy schedule.

It's your 47th year working at Spruce Meadows – what is your standout memory?

On this particular day, it’s hard not to look back on Her Majesty The Queen’s visit to Spruce Meadows. In June of 1990, the day dawned without a single cloud, and the fans started to arrive on an unusually sunny day in June. I remember clearly a woman sitting in the south grandstand with her Welsh flag at 06.00, and she had driven a couple of hundred kilometres to be here. It was a very magical day and we were given a great responsibility to run this project with Mrs Southern because she was traveling with Her Majesty, and we knew that she wanted to make her proud when opening the gates of the property.

Then there were more patriotic days for us with iconic wins for Ian Millar with Big Ben and Eric Lamaze with Hickstead. And of course Scott Brash winning the Rolex Grand Slam, that will be never taken away from the venue.

Next year marks 10 years since the launch of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping; how successful has it been and how has it positively changed the sport?

It has been wildly successful. It has expanded into the non-equestrian world with people realising what an amazing concept and challenge it is. I think that it has been able to bring four of the great show jumping venues in the world – each and every one of them distinct – under the umbrella of a distinctive brand all with one common goal. It wasn’t just created as a marketing strategy and all four shows were able to keep their individuality, be that the magnificence of Geneva or The Dutch Masters or Aachen.

The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping’s credibility is what distinguishes it from other concepts that have been launched. There wasn’t anything added to the calendar, and it was built off this foundation of established organisations that have a certain reputation for excellence. The athletes knew the venues and they knew what it would take to win there. If you look at the roster of champions from the individual events, it’s been amazing. What’s also amazing is the people who have come out of nowhere, such as Sameh El Dahan and Gerrit Nieberg – it’s changed their lives. So for these reasons, I think it’s been an unqualified success.

(Photo: Spruce Meadows Media) (Photo: Spruce Meadows Media)

What is your role at CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’?

I first came on board after doing some postgrad work in 1988 and have been the resident veterinarian ever since. I work across the many tournaments hosted here, including the ‘Masters’, and throughout the busy summer season, taking care of the 900 horses we get on the grounds over that six-week period. As for my current job, the FEI define my role at Spruce Meadows as being the Veterinary Service Manager. It’s an oversight role working with the organising committee, helping to coordinate the visiting delegates and veterinary commission to ensure that the facility, surgical backup, and the treating areas are all ready for the tournaments. I basically work as the oversight veterinarian for the treatment side of things, rather than the commission.

Have you worked on any other international equestrian events?

Earlier in my career I was invited to the World Cup Jumping Final in Las Vegas, as part of the treating team. That was during an era when the World Cup Final was taking place in Las Vegas every second year, and I went down as part of the veterinary team on a number of occasions. Aside from that, I haven't worked as an official at any other international events – my focus has primarily been on Spruce Meadows.

How important is nutrition for a horse’s wellbeing?

Nutrition is just one part of the equation. Horses are amazing in what they can metabolise, so as long as we maintain a nice, consistent diet they should be fine. Rather than complicated nutrition, I think the hardest thing international horses face is the change of diet as they travel from event to event. When they're going from venue to venue, trying to maintain consistent nutrition or feed source can be difficult. When you look at our international horses arriving by planes, enduring long transport times, you can find that there is an adjustment period and some of our toughest cases have been through a lack of adaptation to the new feed source. For example, Alberta is known for high quality grains and roughage, compared to Europe where there is really good forage, so the European horses can sometimes have trouble adapting to that. Current government requirements mean that we have to dump all European horse’s grain and bring them onto a brand-new feeding regime once they arrive in our care. This all takes place over a very concentrated period of time, maybe 10 days at most, so it can be a big adjustment for them and one that we have to tread carefully. Our main aim is always to get them on board without creating abdominal disruption. Over those first few days we always cross our fingers, because if there is some abdominal discomfort we are really limited as to what we can treat them with. The FEI holds us to very high requirements and, while they will never deny treatment for the horses, we have to make sure we don’t interfere with performance later on in the competition.

Why did you decide to become an equine vet? Did anyone inspire you?

I started as a competitor in the junior ranks at Spruce Meadows when it first started, and it was one of the key reasons I became a veterinarian. Watching the facility and the quality of horses unfold really helped me target my career. My aspiration was to look after the quality of horses that were starting to come to Spruce Meadows and to see the facility develop from a ‘cattle feed lot’, as Ron [Southern] used to refer to it, to its current world class status. This journey has been an amazing part of my career.  As for mentors, I've had some great teachers, including some wonderful horsemen and founding trainers here at Spruce Meadows. I’ve also been able to work with a few local vets who were looking after the horses at Spruce Meadows in the early days, who were quite inspirational. Additionally, I’ve met many wonderful mentors and peers during my undergraduate and postgraduate studies at Colorado and Fort Collins.

What career achievement(s) are you most proud of?

I would say that my two board specialisation degrees, in surgery and sports medicine, would be the academic pinnacles of my career. I enjoyed the preparation for both of those. The modern, athletic horse has progressed so far and are treated like finely tuned Ferrari cars. To be able to work with them at the top of the sport, where it is so demanding, has been great and it’s all due to those two specialisations.

What do you enjoy most about being an equine vet?

While other may say their favourite part of the job is seeing horses compete at the top of their ability, the thing I have enjoyed the most through my career has been cultivating the relationship between clients and their horses. Being able to resolve illness, lameness, etc., and allow the client to resume their relationship with their horse gives me the most pleasure.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to become an equine vet?

Mentorship. I think the single most important thing is to spend time with established practitioners to develop an understanding of the industry. Of course, the love of the horse is the foundation of being an equine vet, but I think you need to spend time with people that are passionate about the profession to fully understand it. It is so important to also develop an understanding of the demands of the business. Horses are companions, and when we have catastrophic injuries in the ring it takes a huge emotional toll that is hard to comprehend unless you experience it first-hand. At the end of the day, these aren’t cars that you can take down to the automotive shop, they are precious animals in our care who have a huge impact on their owners’ lives – and I think this can only be fully understood through good mentorship.

What is a typical day for you like?

When I first started my career my schedule was very different; full of regular calls and referral surgeries, as well as tournaments. Now it is a little more structured, primarily focusing on mentoring and directing the practice. I'm an early riser, normally starting at 04.30, and I like to get most of my administrative work done early in the day, as well as my exercise. I normally have my workout and admin done by the time I head out the door at 07.30/08.00. As the owner of our current practice, my first job is to touch base with the teams, do the rounds on cases and see how the day sets up. At the moment we have all hands-on deck for the summer season; coordinating teams, treatments, our ringside responsibilities, and work with the veterinary delegates from respective tournaments. Every year, when busy season rolls along, we have to go on autopilot because the days are so full for everyone, so I have to be able to juggle back and forth and always give the job my undivided attention.

What do you like to do away from work?

My back's bothering me a little bit now, but I still play golf, tennis, hockey, badminton, and ski in the winter. I like to have a full range of recreational activities, as I think it's important for my fitness and health. For example, playing four hours of golf offers a real mental break, if I can turn my phone off!. If I can find some time to play a few holes during a tournament, it feels like I’ve had a full weekend off and gives me a chance to reset. That change of mental focus is really important to me, so I’m lucky to have a great spectrum of activities to enjoy.

Tell us a little bit about your team…

The ‘Masters’ is a step down in terms of the number of horses, but a step up in the quality – so we have both permanent and temporary staff involved annually. Every year we need to have at least three support staff and three veterinarians cover the ring responsibilities, as well as another team that maintains the practice. What we normally find during the ‘Masters’ is less individual medical cases, but the ones that come through are of greater importance – so it’s vital to have a selection of skilled individuals that can make hard decisions.

When you retire, what legacy would you like to leave in equestrianism?

I think my legacy probably aligns with the legacy of Spruce Meadows, in that the inception of Spruce Meadows was to provide training and bring our local population of riders to international status. When you look at the success at the Beijing Olympics, it’s clear we achieved the original goal, and it feels special to have been a part of the journey. Ron Southern would say “it's a very unlikely sport in an unlikely part of the world”, and it is a very rewarding feeling to have played a small role in the success of Spruce Meadows.

The welfare of the horse underpins what the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping stands for; how do you ensure this is upheld and veterinary standards are constantly improving?

Fundamentally, we always have to remind ourselves that these are treasured animals in our care. While we can push them to a certain degree, we can't lose sight of the fact that they aren't machines. We can’t ask them, “How are you feeling today? Would you like a day off?”, so we must be empathetic. No athlete can be expected to work on a year-round basis, so it’s important that we don’t just keep adding more and more tournaments and have the horses compete non-stop. They need a break. These horses are in our care, and it is vital we don’t forget that.

In your opinion, what more can be, and should be, done to improve the welfare of the horse?

As mentioned in my last answer, we just need to be mindful of the demands we’re placing on them and ensure that they're not treated as a disposable commodity. A horse can only withstand so many jumps and so much pressure, but it is impossible to legislate that. As long as we maintain good quality people that understand the horses, and owners that respect what trainers say, their welfare should be in good hands. The key is good communication at all levels, with the riders, trainers and even grooms not being afraid to voice concerns.

(Photo: Jacques Toffi) (Photo: Jacques Toffi)

 

How does it feel to be the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender?

It is a real privilege to be the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender. It has always been a dream of mine and I have always looked up to the other riders who have achieved this. After my victory in the Rolex Grand Prix, I think it took a week or so to sink in that I am the Live Contender!

What are your goals, dreams and ambitions for 2022?

I would like to continue with the Rolex Grand Slam shows in Spruce Meadows and then Geneva. This was something that I had not originally planned for because, due to my previous world ranking, I would not have been able to get into these shows. However, now that I have a chance to compete these shows, I want to do my best and give everything to continue this momentum.

When did your love for show jumping start, and who has inspired you the most throughout your career?

I only started riding when I was 13 years old. Before this and growing up, I was more interested in other sports like soccer. However, I did grow up with horses because of my parents so there were always horses around and I decided to give it a go one day.

My love for show jumping developed quickly and one week after starting to ride, I decided that I wanted to become a professional show jumper. From that moment on, I was working and training hard every day to achieve this dream.

My dad was the person who inspired me most when I was young due to all his experience and success. My dream has always been to be as good as he was and still is, and maybe even be a bit better one day! I still really look up to him in terms of who he is and how much he works each and every day. Although he is not showing competitively anymore, he is still riding every day at home. His motivation and support for everything that I do is unbelievable and very inspiring.

Tell us a little bit about Ben 431… What’s his character like? How was he after CHIO Aachen?

I have to admit that Ben 431 is really over-motivated. Occasionally, it can be quite difficult to handle him and keep him calm but that is also a real positive thing because it means he is always fighting for you and trying to do his best at all times. He is tireless – for example, after three rounds at CHIO Aachen, he was not tired and would have been able to do another one or two rounds. After the victory at Aachen, he also understood that he had done something special. There were lots of media commitments and so he received lots of attention – even more than before. Now he is always looking out of his window for more attention so I think he feels like a bit of a superstar!

What treats does Ben 431 like when he is successful?

Apples from the trees at the stables!

Looking ahead to the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ next month; which horses will you compete with, and who have you selected for the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex?

I will be competing with Ben 431 and Blues d'Aveline, who was also competing at CHIO Aachen and was placed in Hamburg. Ben will definitely partner me in the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex.

Is Ben 431 a good traveller on long journeys?

Until now, he flew once a year to Doha and was actually fine. It was very smooth and uncomplicated so there should be no problems getting him to Calgary.

Tell us a little bit about your current stable of horses and their personalities… Which of your young horses are you most excited about?

There are lots of exciting young horses but it is always hard to say who will make the transition into the bigger part of the sport most effectively. I would say that I am particularly excited about Amigo 1841, who is now nine years old. I really hope he will make the step to the next level.

How important is your team – your groom, your farrier, your coach, your vet, your owner?

My team is hugely important. It’s not just me and Ben. We are in the ring together for 80 seconds but there is so much work that goes on behind the scenes. The whole team play a key role in enabling us to have success in those 80 seconds in the ring. It is often that everyone only talks about the rider and the horse but there is so much more to it. All the others are just as or even more important. They are the true unsung heroes.

Gut Berl seems to be a real family operation – tell us a little bit about it…

Gut Berl is run by Hendrik Snoek, the former German show jumper, and we are all there working for him. While it is Hendrik’s place, it is very much a family business. We have a really good partnership and relationship which I am really happy about. Also, to have the chance to have these kind of horses and be able to go to shows like these now is great.

Hendrik is the owner of the stables and the owner of most of my horses. However, horses like Ben are owned 50:50 between Hendrik and my father. There are also a few other horses at the stables which have different owners.

What keeps you motivated and hungry for success?

Quite simply, the success is what keeps me motivated! It is important to have a goal. I absolutely love riding but I don’t know whether I could do it without the element of competition, the shows and something to work towards. Events like Aachen are what I work towards every day and the opportunity to compete there fuels my motivation. I am working as hard as ever to enjoy more moments like this.

Do initiatives like the Rolex Grand Slam make you even more motivated to win?

Of course. The Rolex Grand Slam is so traditional and unique. In our sport, there are so many shows each year and the Rolex Grand Slam is definitely a highlight as it consists of four of the best events. Everyone would love to be a winner at one of the Rolex Grand Slam events. It is viewed as a really important initiative among us riders and within the sport.

Just like tennis and golf, show jumping has its very own Grand Slam. Which of the other sporting Majors do you love to watch? Which is your favourite and why?

Unfortunately, I don’t have time to watch too many other sports but if I do, I really enjoy watching tennis. My favourite player is Roger Federer.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

To always believe in yourself. This piece of advice is so important for your mentality – in particular, your mindset and how you think about everything. Equally, to always believe in your horses. Also, it is important to ride as many different horses as possible. That’s the best way of learning to ride, building experience and developing an understanding of the horses.

(Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof) (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof)

 

The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping returns to the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ from 7-11 September 2022, with the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex on the Sunday providing a thrilling finale to five days of outstanding sport. Located in the foothills of the Alberta Rocky Mountains in Calgary, the show will welcome the world’s best horse and rider combinations to what is often regarded to as the leading equestrian venue in North America.

Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping – Rider Watch

Following his spectacular win at CHIO Aachen with Ben 431, Gerrit Nieberg comes to the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ as the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender. This will be the first time that the combination will make the journey across the Atlantic Ocean to this iconic venue, with the duo looking to carry forward their winning momentum from CHIO Aachen to continue their quest to become the next Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping victor.  

Joining Nieberg are a host of world-class horse and rider combinations. Three of the Swedish FEI World Championship gold medal-winning team come to Calgary with their medal-winning horses. Jens Fredricson, Peder Fredricson and Henrik von Eckermann will all be aiming to claim their first victory in the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex at the beautiful venue. von Eckermann and King Edward are sure to be the hot favourites heading into the third Rolex Grand Slam Major of the year, having won the Individual gold medal in Herning. Peder Fredricson is also expected to be at the top of the leaderboard, having won two Rolex Grands Prix in the last two months at Knokke Hippique and the Brussels Stephex Masters. These combinations will be riding full of confidence and will be looking to continue their top-form into the show.

Out of the six Rolex Testimonees competing at the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, current World No.2 Martin Fuchs will lead the way. The Swiss, who made history by winning consecutive Rolex Grands Prix at CHI Geneva in 2019 and 2021, will be hoping to claim the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping bonus for winning two out of four Majors. Fuchs has had a phenomenal 2022 season thus far, winning the FEI World Cup™ Final and the Rolex Grand Prix at Jumping International de Dinard.

Compatriot, and last year’s winner of the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex, Steve Guerdat returns to the impressive International Ring at the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ to defend his title. The ever-competitive Guerdat is the ultimate horseman and is always able to get the most out of his horses in the big moments. Knowing what it takes to win, he brings two of his top horses (Venard de Cerisy and Taina M&m), to this third Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major of the year. Joining Fuchs and Gerdat is the next young Swiss talent and their FEI World Championships teammate Edouard Schmitz. The young rider is now cementing himself as one of the most exciting young riders in the sport having recently won the International Grand Prix of Ireland at the Dublin Horse Show.

A regular at the Calgary venue, Kent Farrington and his team of horses will have the advantage of knowing the arena and most importantly the American knows how to win in it. In July, he added to that list of wins with Orafina in the Jayman BUILT Cup at the 'North American' CSI 5* tournament held at the venue. Last year, Farrington came second in the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex, and will be hoping to go one better this year.

British rider, Scott Brash, is sure to have the fondest of memories from this venue, as it was where he won the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping in 2015. Brash still stands as the only rider to have won this elusive title and is a two-time winner of the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex. He will travel to Calgary brimming with confidence, following his strong performance in the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen finishing a close second, as well as winning Team bronze in Herning.

The home crowd will be delighted to welcome a number of Canadian riders. Tiffany Foster, the best placed Canadian rider at the FEI World Championships, will be joined Erynn Ballard and Amy Millar. The last Canadian winner of this class came from Ian Millar and Dixson in 2014, so these talented riders will be looking to bring the coveted title back to home soil once more. The Canadians also have a trump card to play, with their new Chef d’Equipe Eric Lamaze on-site providing his expert coaching and knowledge having won the class in 2007.

The Netherlands will be represented by Harrie Smolders, who will be partnered by Darry Lou. The 14-year-old chestnut stallion was the former mount of American rider Beezie Madden, who in 2019 claimed the prestigious class. The passionate crowd will no doubt be wondering whether the Dutchman is able to repeat this success aboard this talented horse. Adding to Europe’s strong presence at the show is Max Kühner, who brings his trusted partner Elektric Blue P as well as the talented Eic Coriolis Des Isles. France’s Kevin Staut will also be making the journey the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’. Staut, who has had numerous 5* Grands Prix wins over the last couple of years, is yet to be victorious in this class. The Frenchman’s fellow Rolex Testimonee Daniel Deusser, a previous winner of the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen and The Dutch Masters, will also be in attendance.

Jérôme Guery will head the strong Belgium contingent in Canada. Guery notably, who won the Individual silver medal at the FEI World Championships, will be joined by no less than four members of the Philippaerts family. Ludo Philippaerts will be joined by three of his sons, including Olivier, winner of the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex 10 years ago, Nicola who brings the talented mare Katanga V/H Dingeshof, with whom he finished third in the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen earlier in the season and Thibault who recently won Individual silver and Team gold-medals at the FEI Young Rider Championships.

Course designer Leopoldo Palacios will be looking to set a challenge that is fair yet challenging for the horses and riders competing in the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex. With the continued quest for the next victor of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping continuing at the historic venue, the field of competitors look as talented as ever and each rider will be putting their all into lifting the iconic trophy on the final day.

(Photo: Rolex / Ashley Neuhof) (Photo: Rolex / Ashley Neuhof)

The world’s best horse and rider combinations will once again journey to what is often considered North American’s premier equestrian venue. Located in the foothills of the Alberta Rocky Mountains, the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, held from 7-11 September 2022, provides spectators with not only spectacular views but also first-class equestrian competition, shopping, and entertainment. The highlight and main draw for many passionate equestrian fans will be the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex, which will be held on Sunday 11 September.

Aside from the world class show jumping, the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ provides spectators with a host of activities to keep the whole family entertained. Through the Tournament the MARKT will provide opportunities for those who love shopping to get hold of everything, from original fine art to locally made products, from its 70 different stalls. In addition, equine inspired demonstrations and live entertainment will also take place daily. Throughout the week members of the public will also be able to visit members of the Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) Mounted Troop, Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment and the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, both situated in East and West Meadows.

Thursday will see the start of the 5* jumping classes both the ATCO Cup and the CANA Cup being held in the spectacular International Ring. Both classes provide the first chance for riders to qualify for the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex on the Sunday.

Friday celebrates the Westjet Evening of the Horse. Attendees can expect to be fully entertained by world class show jumping, music and fireworks. The evening will commence with the 1.60m Tourmaline Oil Cup, in which the top horse and rider combinations will battle it out for the esteemed title. Following this will be the ATCO Electric Six Bar class, which sees riders jumping six fences set in a straight line, with each fence getting higher and higher. Fans will also be eager to find out the winning names for the 2022 edition of Name the Foal, presented by TELUS. The evening will be concluded with live music, a performance from the Musical Band of the Household Cavalry and equine demonstrations.

On Saturday, Spruce Meadows will once again host ‘British Day’ with special appearances from the Members of Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment and the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery who will be in full military dress to celebrate the day. The Suncor Winning Round is the first of the 5* competitions in the International Ring which will be followed by the Parade of Nations and the official opening of British Day. Teams made up for four horses and riders represent a variety of different countries in the BMO Nations’ Cup, the final class of the evening.

All eyes will be focused on one thing on Sunday, the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex. The world’s most elite horse and rider combinations will be in attendance to compete for this prestigious title and etch their names into the history books of the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’. Germany’s Gerrit Nieberg journeys to Canada with hopes of continuing his quest for the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping title.

(Photo: Mackenzie Clark) (Photo: Mackenzie Clark)

What are your plans, dreams and ambitions for 2022?

We’ve got some shows in Kentucky we’ll be doing over the rest of 2022, as well as a little bit of training with the horses at home and preparations for the winter season in Wellington. So we don’t have too many big, big things planned for the end of this year. We'll just keep going where we're going and keep practicing and keep training.

 

What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?

I would say the proudest moment was probably jumping in my first Grand Prix last summer. It was a 2* Grand Prix, so it was good to get involved in the international scene and jump in the FEI categories.

                                                                                                    

The experience really opened my eyes and helped me start to see that ‘this is a possibility for me doing this now, and in the future I’ll be jumping even bigger classes’. 

 

You recently received The Gillian Wilson Trophy after being named Junior Equestrian of the Year – how did that make you feel?

It made me feel good, it’s a great accomplishment. It's always pleasing to be recognised in a positive manner, but the most important thing is to keep going forward and keep just doing what we're doing so we can keep having positive results moving forward.

 

When did your love for show jumping start, and who has inspired you the most throughout your career?

My family's always been big into horses, so I have always been around them growing up as a kid. But I first started really getting into it when I was about 11 or 12 years old. I started really, really enjoying the horses and all the aspects of the sport. Jumping was something I really wanted to try and have a go at, so I did and haven't stopped since!

 

As for people who inspired me, my mum has always been there. She's been involved since the the very beginning and has always been a big supporter of my career. Even if it's not a good day or not the best round she's positive and she gives me valuable feedback. So I’d probably say my mum is my biggest inspiration throughout my career.

 

What attributes do you believe a successful show jumper needs?

I think a successful show jumper has got to have really big ambitions and have a solid love and passion for this sport.

 

The sport isn’t the easiest at times, so they’ve got to have a really good drive to keep going and keep pushing.

There's going to be a lot more bad days than good days in this sport, so you’ve got to take the good ones while you can. Just keep moving and keep working while something might not be working out, because in the end you will have some good days. Those are the ones you've got to focus on.

 

Tell us a little bit about your stable of horses – which ones are you most excited about?

We've got a really cool young horse right now, named Chicago. We've had him for about six months now and he's still a little green still, but he's really showing a lot of potential. He's got a very good jump to him, so I think he could possibly be a horse for the future. Time will tell with that one.

 

How important is your team – your groom, your farrier, your coach, your vet, your owner?

The team is very important, it’s number one. If you don't have a good team, you won’t get very far in the sport. With the day-to-day activities with the horses, our groom, Jo Watson, is incredible. She manages all of the horses and takes care of them.

 

It's also important to have good vets, farriers, coaches, all of those integral people. If you don't have the proper team, it's hard to get much done, but once you have people to fill those positions and work together, it's amazing what you can accomplish.

 

What do you love most about show jumping? Competing, the camaraderie with the other riders, travelling the world…

I'm a very competitive person, so I always enjoyed that side of the sport, but having that connection with the horses and being able to work with them - it's something you can't really find in any other sport.

 

There are no other sports where you have to work with a different animal with a different brain, so I find that part of the sport very interesting. There are so many different ways you can go about it and approach the sport that you never stop learning. There's always something to learn.

 

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

I would say best piece of advice would be to think about the long-term in this sport. I think sometimes people get stuck on what goes on day to day, and they start to forget what could come as long as they keep sticking at it. You make a plan and you work on it every day, and in a couple months you'll be able to see the results

 

As a young rider, do you feel there are enough opportunities for up-and-coming riders in the sport?

I think there are lots of good series and some more shows popping up all the time. For example, the U25 circuit in Wellington is great. There are even more junior and young rider Nations Cups starting up around North America, which is nice. It gives us a good opportunity to ride on teams and have that experience.

 

The only struggle I see for young riders in the sport nowadays is the cost of everything. It’s hard to grasp that side of things.

 

You must have been really pleased with your performance with Cactus de Cosniere at Spruce Meadows in June. I was over the moon with the horse, it was an unreal experience. It was amazing just to be jumping in that ring, let alone getting a result. That's a very good horse that’s just been coming along slowly over the past two years, and now he's starting to be a real star in show jumping.

 

In your opinion, why is Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ such a special place?

The grounds are amazing, it's an unreal property. The care they have there of maintaining the show grounds is incredible. What’s more, the actual courses, the jumps, everything is top class. And the atmosphere! When you walk into that International Ring, it's just an unreal feeling.

 

How positive do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam has been for the sport of show jumping?

I think it's had really big impact on show jumping, it brings in a lot of spectators to our sport. It really gives top riders something to go for and something to really drive their ambition

 

Away from the sport, what do you love to do?

I like to be outside and exercise a little bit.

 

What does a typical day look like for you?

I try to wake as early as I can every morning, but each day looks a little bit different and they're not necessarily structured. I spend a little bit of time in the afternoons finishing schoolwork, but I ride every day from Tuesday to Sunday.

 

(Photo : private collection) (Photo : private collection)

 

What is your earliest equestrian memory?

My parents owned a riding holiday business in Hanover, so I grew up around horses. I started off doing a bit of everything, some eventing, show jumping and dressage. Horses have always been a way of life for me and my family. 

 

How did you get into the breeding side of the sport? Has it always interested you?

I was 14 years old when I started breeding. I had a talented mare called Pistazie who had very good pedigree, but she got injured in the field. So, I decided to start breeding from her. A lot of the horses that I breed now still have her lineage.

 

As a breeder, what is your main ambition?

I think that with breeding the quality of the horse has to improve and adapt with the sport. But, in my opinion it is equally important to breed a healthy horse and for me these are the main elements of breeding. If you have a horse that has a lot of quality but is not healthy, it is such a shame. But if you have a healthy horse that does not have so much quality, it is fine, as there always people that want to compete at a lower level. Breeding nowadays is so sporty, and we now rarely breed a horse that cannot jump in 1.30-1.45m classes. I always try to find the best combination between the mare and the stallion. Nowadays, there are so many stallions at stud, so it is a hard choice. But it is one of the most important parts of breeding a good horse.

 

As a breeder, what is the proudest moment of your career so far?

I have bred so many horses that it is hard to pick just one horse. It is always great to breed a proven stallion, but we have also had lot of horses that have been very successful at the international level and that have competed all over the world. My biggest dream would be to breed a championship horse and, to further that dream, to have Gerrit riding it.

 

Has there ever been a time when pairings have had unexpected results?

I think that the mother’s dam is extremely important, and if I am honest, I will not breed with a mare that I do not think is good enough. I have been in breeding for over 40 years, and I have been lucky enough to ride a lot of the mares and stallions that I use for breeding so I know which horses would be best suited together. So, for that reason I have never really had any unexpected results.

 

How long do you keep the foal before it goes on to its next home or before you break it in?

We actually do not sell any of the foals – the earliest that we sell them is when they are in the end of their second year or when they are three years old. When they are this age, we will do some loose jumping with them so that we can see their talent, and we will also get a full vet check with x-rays. We then decide which mares will go to stud to have a foal before they are fully broken in. However, we do some work with these mares before they have their foals so that they have had some education. Once these mares have had their foals, they will go back to the sports stable around four years old.

 

How many horses are you breeding during the year?

In the last five years, we have bred between 20 and 30 foals each year.

 

Tell us a little bit about Gut Berl – it appears to be a real family operation?

Gut Berl is a big property. There are two stables on the property – one where we keep the sports horses and the other is the breeding stables. The stables that we keep the horses in work has 60 stalls and the breeding stables has two big indoor stable blocks where we keep the yearlings, broodmares, and foals. We have about 80 hectares of land so there is plenty of space for the horses to graze and be turned out. 

 

We have one extremely good vet for the breeding side of the business. He has been with Gut Berl for over 20 years and is local to the area. I think that he probably knows the mother, grandmother, and even the great-grandmother of the foals that we have at the moment. We trust him implicitly and he is a close family friend – we work very closely with him with all aspects of the breeding programme.

 

Then we have two staff who take care of the mares and foals at the breeding stables. At the sports stables, where we have 60 horses, we have more staff. I think we have four or five home riders, some show riders, grooms, a stable manager and then the family is very involved. It is a big team, and we are like family.

 

Which of your young horses are you most excited about?

We have a quite a few very young horses that I think could be very exciting between the age of five and eight years old, but they must now prove their talent and we need to see how good they can actually be. We have a very nice nine-year-old, called Amigo 1841. Gerrit is riding the horse at the moment, and he actually rode him at CHIO Aachen, as well. We have a lot of faith and hope in this horse. It is hard to pick just one horse at the moment – but it is always so exciting to watch them grow and develop. Unfortunately, we do also have to sell some of the horses, and it is always easier to sell the good horses that we would like to keep!

 

You must be extremely proud of Gerrit and Ben 431 winning the Rolex Grand Prix at this year's CHIO Aachen?

I am so proud of them. It truly is a dream come true. The season had already been successful but winning a Rolex Grand Prix at a Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major is always something very special and something that not many riders achieve. I think we will always look back at that day and get goosebumps.

 

In the beginning, the biggest problem with Ben 431 was getting him under control and to make sure that he focused on the rider. We wanted to nurture this keenness and his love for his job, but we also had to make sure that he was working with Gerrit. Through this, Gerrit and Ben 431 have created a strong foundation, off which they have built their successes.

 

How positive do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam is for the sport of show jumping?

The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is so unique, as it combines four shows that have so much tradition. These four shows were always something that were a big deal to win back before the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping was formed. The prize money is phenomenal, and it is so important for show jumping. Everyone always remembers who won CHIO Aachen every year – in my opinion I think the Majors are now getting very close to championship status.

 

Out of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping's four Majors, which is your favourite, and why?

I am German so I have to say CHIO Aachen. To me it is the biggest and the best of the four Majors, and of course now it is even more special since Gerrit’s win there. But of course, if you ask a Canadian, they will say the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’.

 

The next target for Gerrit and Ben 431 is the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’. They have had a great season thus far and it would be amazing if they can continue that form in Calgary. Ben 431 has had an easy few weeks since CHIO Aachen, he has done a lot of hacking through the woods and has been out in the paddocks – horses aren’t robots and it is so important to keep them happy and enjoying their job. He did some smaller classes last week and he is now preparing for the next Major.

 

Who has inspired you the most throughout your career?

Herbert Meyer, who was the German Chef d’Equipe from 1985 until the 2000 Olympic Games, which were held in Sydney. My first job was riding for him at his stables – I think I was either 16 or 17 years old. That is where I learnt all the basics, as well as so much more! He was the person that I would always go to for advice and someone I always looked up to. I have also always been inspired by other great riders. I make sure that I keep my eyes open and watch the best – you can always learn more and get better.

 

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

The best piece of advice that I have been given is if you believe in something, especially in a horse, you have to keep believing in it and working with it even if you are having a hard time. If you truly believe in the horse, you will eventually achieve success with it and you will get the results that you want.

(Photo: Rolex Grand Slam) (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam)

 

The Rolex Grand Slam ‘Second Screen’ – designed exclusively for the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping – allows fans to follow their favourite horse and rider combinations using second screen technology. Launched ahead of The Dutch Masters 2021, the first equestrian Major of the year, the Rolex Grand Slam Second Screen technology has been supplying equestrian enthusiasts with the most up-to-date statistics for over a year. Viewers from over 50 countries have enjoyed the experience and are now utilising the technology before, during and after the Majors to gain a better understanding of the performances of their favourite equestrian pairings.

The Rolex Grand Slam Second Screen technology was developed by a team of specialist experts at the Swiss company, Alogo. The company is known for its creation of analytical tools for the equine industry, including a range of cutting-edge products that quantify athletes’ performances.

Through the web app, passionate equestrian supporters from around the world are able to see a host of real-time data, including live timings, faults acquired, as well as the order of go. This service runs seamlessly alongside the Rolex Grand Slam online streaming platform. In addition, the Rolex Grand Slam Second Screen retains all of the statistics created for each Major, which allows users to look back at each of these iconic shows in more detail than ever before.

The Rolex Grand Slam Second Screen also gives fans access to additional stats, such as which obstacles were knocked down the most, the number of riders outside of the permitted time and live timings during the jump-off, as well as information about the Rolex Grand Slam Live Contender. The Rolex Grand Slam Second Screen is the perfect addition to the live stream for equestrian fans wanting to know more about the four Majors that comprise the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping: The Dutch Masters, CHIO Aachen, CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, and CHI Geneva.

The Rolex Grand Slam Second Screen is free and available to use by clicking on the following link: https://rolexgrandslam.alogo.io/

(Photo: Dirk Caremans / Hippofoto) (Photo: Dirk Caremans / Hippofoto)

 

What is your earliest equestrian memory?

Over 30 years ago, an equestrian centre opened in our local area near to Lier, which, at the time, was actually the biggest equestrian centre to be built in Belgium. I took my daughter, Elke, to it and she loved it. After that day, I saw how much she loved horses, so I bought her a little mare called So Brave. They won numerous classes together, and from there we got in contact with Eric Wauters, and that is where it all began. In those days, show jumping was not really televised, but when it was, only an occasional five or ten minutes was shown. But I remember in 1992, the show jumping at the Barcelona Olympic Games was shown in full and that was really exciting for the sport in Belgium.

How did you become a top-level owner in the sport?

There were two main reasons that I became a top-level owner in the sport; the first was meeting Eric Wauters and the second was that I was always looking for better horses for my daughter. Back then, it was easier to find nice horses, as there were fewer good ones. Yards these days have over one hundred horses aged between six and eight that could all be great horses, so it takes a bit of luck to find a top one. At first, I owned horses that competed at national level but that then progressed to the international levels. My ambition of buying better horses has never been to sell them, but to keep them and train them to be better – I get so much enjoyment out of this and that has ultimately always been my plan.

As an owner, what is the proudest moment of your career so far?

There are two moments that stand out to me. The first is Olivier Philippaerts’ successes with Carlito C. I bred the horse myself and it made it even more special. He won the Derby classes at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ and at CHIO Aachen, both of which were incredibly proud moments for me.

Secondly would be all of the successes that Nicola has had; he has won 5* Grands Prix and the Belgium Championships. Now, he is having so much success with Katanga v/h Dingeshof, she was incredible in the Rolex Grand Prix at this year’s CHIO Aachen, as well as at the FEI European Championships. Now, the combination heads to the FEI World Championships in Herning, and I think they have a chance not only in the Individual competition, but also as part of the team – so I am very hopeful. It is a true championship and there will be a lot of competition.

What qualities are you looking for when purchasing a 5* (or potential 5*) show jumping horse?

Nowadays, they have to be the total package – they have to have everything; speed, cleverness, scope, sharpness, blood and so on. When I first started, 30 years ago, the riders were more important, because in a class of 40 riders, maybe only five of them could win. Now, 38 out of the 40 riders in a class can potentially win, so the horse must have everything in order to be successful.

In Belgium we have a lot of good horses, and that makes it difficult to pick the best ones. Ludo Philippaerts now has around 12 to 15 extremely talented eight-year-olds. Ludo is great at spotting potential in a horse, and usually when he tells me that a horse is good it turns out to be very good.

How important is it for you to get the horse/rider pairing correct? How do you know a horse will be a good fit for the rider, and vice versa?

The first thing is the rider needs to see the talent and potential in the horse. The rider then has to like the horse; if they don’t then I won’t buy it. If they did not have a good feeling, then it is over for me. For me, riding the horse at least once or twice is extremely important; however, Ludo never rode Katanga v/h Dingeshof before he bought her! I don’t think anyone can really predict which eight-year-old will turn into a 5* Grand Prix winner – you can have a good feeling, but they still have a long way to go before they become a top horse.

Tell us a bit about your relationship with the Philippaerts family? Can you share some behind the scenes insights into an owner/rider partnership?

I have been in partnership with the Philippaerts family for around 10 or 12 years now and our relationship is great. I first met Ludo before his children were born, around 30 years ago. Ludo now has a lot of very nice eight year olds that are ready to make the step up to the next level. We work very well together, and we always have; I trust him. He is amazing at sourcing the best horses for me; and now he has four sons in the business he has to find top horses for them as well, which he keeps doing. He has a talent and a great eye for a horse!

How many horses do you currently own? Which of your young horses do you believe has the potential to be the most successful?

I currently own six horses, and I have always owned between six and eight horses at one time. I like to have a smaller number of horses because then you are able to get to know each one better and learn their different personality traits and quirks. I do not breed anymore so the youngest of the horses I own at the moment are seven and eight years old. Nowadays, it is very difficult to know if an eight-year-old will one day become a top 5* horse. You need to be patient and hopeful that the horse and rider combination will be perfect.

What is your main ambition as a top-level owner?

To enjoy the sport, but also to try to win and be successful. Together with my team, we have won numerous 5* Grands Prix and Belgian Championships. The aim now is to win a Rolex Grand Prix or the Olympic Games. We have missed out on going to the Olympic Games twice now due to injuries. They are big dreams, but you have to have big dreams, and sometimes they come true.

The feeling that you get as an owner when your horse is successful is incredible. The feeling when Olivier won the Derby classes at CHIO Aachen and at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ was unbelievable. I was so nervous before CHIO Aachen this year, so for Nicola to come third was incredible. CHIO Aachen and the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ are like the Tour de France in cycling – everyone wants to compete in them and do well.

Which horse(s) (past or present) of yours are you most proud of, and why?

That is so difficult because I have been so fortunate to have had so many amazing horses. I have had eight horses compete in Nations Cup teams. In Belgium there are so many good horses, so to have that many horses compete for our country is incredible and has been a great honour for me.

H&M Chilli Willi was a phenomenal horse and now Katanga v/h Dingeshof is so talented. She has achieved so much in her career including Team bronze and Individual fifth at the FEI European Championships last year; fourth in the Rolex Grand Prix at CSIO Roma Piazza di Siena; and third in the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen. Those are just a few of her highlights from the past year. She is a horse of lifetime, but Ludo always tells me he can keeping finding them for me.

How positive do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam is for the sport of show jumping?

It is incredible, the Rolex Grand Slam is the biggest thing to have happened to show jumping. Every rider wants to compete at the Majors. I was offered Hello Sanctos, the horse Scott Brash won the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping on, so to watch him be so successful was magical. There is nothing in the sport that compares to the Rolex Grand Slam.

Out of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping's four Majors, which is your favourite, and why?

It would have to be CHIO Aachen and the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’. We have had a lot of successes at these two shows, which adds to how special they are. The joy that I have got out of these shows is unbelievable, and the crowds are phenomenal. Nicola wants to go to the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ this year, but we have to be so careful with Katanga v/h Dingeshof. She has had an extremely busy time with CHIO Aachen and other competitions earlier in the season, and now she has been selected for Belgium’s World Championships team, so I think it might be too much for her. But it is his dream, so we will base our decision off her World Championships’ performance. Olivier may go to the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, but that has not been confirmed yet.

Who has inspired you the most throughout your career?

I have met so many great riders and people that it is difficult for me to name just one, but Eric Wauters inspired me greatly. He was a great friend and taught me so much. Nowadays, Ludo is such an inspiration. But I would have to say that they both are masters, and they know so much about horses and the industry.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

The late Eric Wauters used to say to me: “Do not look too hard for a horse, one day the right one will just walk into your stables”. I think that that statement is so true.

Ludo always says to me: “I will find you another top horse”, and he always does. It is an incredible talent that he has; finding a top 5* horse is so hard and he just keeps finding them.

 

(Photo: Rolex Grand Slam) (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam)

 

With European summertime drawing to a close, so too does the Rolex Grands Prix summer season, which begins in May and ends on the final weekend in August. Over the course of this four-month period, Rolex is the title partner of six prestigious shows’ Grands Prix, each one sitting outside of the revered Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.

CSIO Jumping International de la Baule hosted the first Rolex Grand Prix of the summer season, also marking the first time Rolex has sponsored the show, a firm favourite with riders. Delighted crowds witnessed 59-year-old Canadian Beth Underhill and Dieu Merci Van T&L lift the inaugural trophy. The stallion was previously ridden by legendary Rolex Testimonee Eric Lamaze, who has now retired from the sport due to health issues. Lamaze is now providing his expert knowledge to the Canadian team in his new role as Chef d’Equipe and was with Underhill at the show. Second place went to Yuri Mansur of Brazil with his gelding Vitiki, with Frenchman Pierre Marie Friant claiming third with Urdy d’Astrée.

Just a week later, the world’s best horse and rider combinations made the short journey across the English Channel to the spectacular CHI Royal Windsor Horse Show in the grounds of Windsor Castle, which this year hosted a spectacular equestrian and musical performance to celebrate Her Majesty The Queen’s 70-year reign. Equestrian royalty gathered to contest the Rolex Grand Prix, which, in typical English style, was held under grey clouds and rainy skies. Bernardo Costa Cabral’s course caused issues throughout, with only three combinations eventually progressing to the jump-off. First to go was Belgian Gregory Wathelet with his trusted partner Nevados S who laid down a gauntlet that neither Max Kühner of Austria nor Daniel Bluman from Israel could match. Wathelet and his stallion now target the FEI World Championships, both hoping to carry forward their winning form.

Next up was CSIO Roma Piazza di Siena, which is often referred to as the most picturesque show jumping event in the world. On the pristine oval arena where 49 of the world’s best partnerships competed, 13 proceeded to the jump-off. Much to his delight, Irishman Denis Lynch claimed his second Rolex Grand Prix in Roma, his first coming in 2008 with the great Lantinus. Lynch had only recently taken over the reins of his ride Brooklyn Heights, but the duo were in harmony and produced the quickest round to take the title. Germany’s Jana Wargers and her bay stallion Limbridge followed up in second place and home favourite Piergiorgio Bucci took third.

Knokke Hippique, was won by World No. 3 Peder Fredricson from Sweden, riding his long-standing partner H&M All In, who is now 16-years-old. With six combinations going clear in the first round, it was a hotly contested jump-off. Fredricson, who now heads to the FEI World Championships in Herning, Denmark with H&M All In, commented: “H&M All In may be 16 years old but he is still a winner. He got a break for a few weeks and participated in a small competition last week to warm up again. Today was our day. I am immensely happy”.

The Rolex Grand Prix, held last weekend at Jumping International de Dinard, saw current World No.1 Martin Fuchs claim back-to-back wins in the prestigious competition, following his victory with Conner Jei last year. This year, the Swiss was partnered by his striking grey gelding Leone Jei, with whom he won the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva last year. The duo have been selected to represent the Swiss team at next week’s World Championships and will be full of confidence heading into the competition. Home crowd favourite Julien Epaillard and Gracieux du Pachis produced the only other double clear but were just 0.52 seconds slower than the winning combination, while Fuchs’ fellow Rolex Testimonee Bertram Allen and Pacino Amiro took third in the esteemed class with a fast four faults in the jump-off.

Attention now turns to the Brussels Stephex Masters, which for the first time this year will be held in a grass arena and will host the final Rolex Grand Prix of the summer season. Following this is the third Major of the year hosted at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ where Gerrit Nieberg will look to continue his quest as Live Contender after his spectacular win in the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen.

(Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder) (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder)

 

What is your role at CHIO Aachen?

I am the president of the veterinary commission so I am responsible for all veterinary affairs. This requires us to carry out examinations on the horses on arrival to see if they’ve travelled well, that they’ve arrived without any infectious diseases, and that they have no fever. With every horse, we then have to perform a veterinary inspection, which consists of a trot-up to check if the horses are lame or not, to check that the tendons look good, and confirm that the horse’s general attitude is fine. For some disciplines, such as eventing, we sometimes have to do that twice, both before and after cross-country, for example. We also have to view horses’ medication.

It is my responsibility to ensure that there is a good veterinary service provided – a vet in each ring and a vet in the stable area. Here in Aachen, there is a whole team of vets, including specialists in diagnosis and specialists in internal medicine. We are very well equipped – we have ultrasound, endoscopy, we have a complete laboratory here on the showground so that we can deliver a first class service to the horses, especially in cases when a horse is injured or not well. It allows us to manage things on-site and find an early diagnosis. Only in the most severe case, where a surgical intervention is necessary, is a horse then referred to a hospital.

Have you worked on any other international equestrian events?

I have been the foreign veterinary delegate for European and World Championships, and also at the Olympic Games. My stand-out experience came when I was part of the veterinary commission at the London 2012 Olympic Games, which was a fantastic event. It was incredible public relations for all equine sports. I’ve had great times in La Baule, which is a good event. However, the one that I like most is CHIO Aachen. I was born in Aachen and I grew up in Aachen. I’ve work on the show for 40 years – I started as a student supporting the vets, then worked as a vet, then became a member of the veterinary commission, and since 1998 I have been the chef of the veterinary commission.

Over the last 20 years, CHIO Aachen has improved greatly. I believe it was the World Equestrian Games (WEG) in 2006 that really gave us a boost. For me, the event was a huge success, and as far as I’m concerned, there’s never been an equestrian event that has had more positive public attention. Since the WEG, this show has grown – we now have additional disciplines here. Before we just had jumping, dressage and driving – additionally we now have eventing and vaulting.

How important is nutrition for a horse’s wellbeing?

The horse requires nutrition that is adequate for the horse. It needs a large amount of roughage and fibre, which is very important for its gut. If horses are put on a diet with too much grain and not enough fibre then the risk of colic is much higher. You need to give a horse basic good food – there is no superfood. A horse also needs basic good training. From time to time you need to take blood samples to see what a horse might be lacking. In my opinion, supplements are both overrated and overused.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to become an equine vet?

You must have a connection to the horse, have empathy for it, and be eager to learn. If you are only concerned about money, there are other far better opportunities than being an equine vet that you should choose. Our profession has a problem motivating young vets. A lot of aspiring vets have found their way into this profession through their love of the horse, but during their studies they also realise that it’s hard work with long hours, including night and weekend duties. Some then decide that they would like a more comfortable life with more normal hours, with no night duties or weekend working, which is a problem for our industry all across Europe. Maybe it’s just a generation problem.

What is a typical day for you like?

I get up at 7am and I will be at the show at 8.30am, where I will spend the whole day. I’m usually not home before 9pm and sometimes not before 11pm or midnight. And that’s not just for me, that’s for most of the veterinary team. I alone cannot do this job. For example, today there are about 20 vets working here. We start with four vets and as the CHIO progresses the number of vets increase, as the final three days of the Festival are the most intense.

Tell us a little bit about your team…

The WEG in 2006 highlighted that we needed a larger veterinary team, and then we additionally had endurance and reining. In 2002 when we won the bid for the WEG, Frank Kemperman came back from Jerez and said that we had to sit down and make plans. The first plan was to enlarge our facilities in the stables and the veterinary centre, while the second plan was to expand the veterinary team. We then had three years to build the team, so I asked some vets that I knew if they were interested and some others joined spontaneously. The eventual team in 2006 was very well welded together, and the nucleus of that team still exists here today, which I’m very happy about. The team is very supportive of each other, closing their own practices, coming from far and wide across Europe, not just from the local area, but from Belgium, The Netherlands, Austria and all over Germany. Every day I look forward to the show and being here, but it’s always hard work.

When you retire, what legacy would you like to leave in equestrianism?

What I’ve tried to achieve, which has been partially successful, was when the relationship between the official vets and the treating vets improved. The official vets don’t just see themselves as policemen any longer, but also as advisors, and the treating vets are taking this advice. The cooperation of both groups has brought not just a better relationship but also better understanding of the sport, and ultimately a better situation for the horse.

In your opinion, what more can be, and should be, done to improve the welfare of the horse?

There are multiple things that can be done. But for me, the main thing is for the main decisionmakers to ensure that their horses have proper phases of rest, of reduced training and, for certain events, must be specially trained. A horse cannot go through the year on the same level of performance – no horse can sustain that. Most of the good riders that you see here at CHIO Aachen understand that. There must be better controls, whether that’s by improved vet inspections and doping controls, more consistent judging. I still believe that it is still possible to bring the sport on to an even higher level, which is achieved by good horsemanship and ensuring that everything is done for the good of the horse.

(Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof) (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof)

Gerrit Nieberg wins the Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen and becomes the Rolex Grand Slam Live Contender

 

Bathed in glorious July sunshine, CHIO Aachen’s 40,000 capacity Hauptstadion looked resplendent, as it was once again the venue for the 2022 edition of the Rolex Grand Prix, part of the inimitable Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. Comprising 40 starters from 14 nations, including 20 of the world’s top 30-ranked riders, the World Equestrian Festival’s knowledgeable crowd was full of anticipation, ahead of being treated to unparalleled levels of skill and precision from the horse and rider combinations that had qualified for this pinnacle class.

With just the top 18 progressing to the second round, there was little room for error, as the Frank Rothenberger-designed course – consisting of 14 obstacles and 17 efforts – demanded that each pairing was on the very top of their game. Thirteen riders eventually went clear, including on-form McLain Ward, who had his sights firmly set on a hat-trick of victories, having claimed both Wednesday’s and Friday’s showpiece classes. British trio, Harry Charles, Scott Brash and Ben Maher joined the American in round two, alongside five Germans – Gerrit Nieberg, Christian Ahlmann, Daniel Deusser, Mario Stevens and Philipp Weishaupt – much to the delight of the rapturous home crowd. Five advancing riders picked up penalties in the first round and had it all to do, including three-time Major winner, Steve Guerdat, and Harrie Smolders from The Netherlands.

After a short break, while the 12-obstacle second round course was built, two-time Major winner, Philipp Weishaupt got the contest back underway, although an early refusal by his mount Asathir meant there would be no third Major triumph for the German. Eighth to go, America’s McLain Ward and his mount HH Azur was the first combination to go double clear, much to the delight of his team watching on from Aachen’s ‘kiss and cry’ area. Next to go, the current Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender, Daniel Deusser, and his super mare, Killer Queen Vdm, demonstrated their unwavering talent and ability, recording the contest’s second double clear, thereby triggering a jump-off. The only rider to ever win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, Scott Brash soon made it three in the jump-off, after he and Hello Jefferson navigated the 17-effort test fault free. It wasn’t to be for Irish duo Conor Swail and Darragh Kenny, Nayal Nasser of Egypt, Rolex Testimonee Kevin Staut and Great Britain’s Ben Maher, after they all accrued penalties. Penultimate rider to go, Nicola Philippaerts, would become the fourth to contest the jump-off, while last to go, Germany’s Gerrit Nieberg also booked his place in the final showdown.

McLain Ward kicked off proceedings in the jump-off, but was unlucky to put the final fence down. Next up, Daniel Deusser made no mistake, crossing the finishing line without a fault in 41.60 seconds, thereby setting a tough target for the final three riders to try and beat. If anyone could emulate Deusser’s time, Scott Brash could – the 36-year-old Briton going over two seconds faster than his fellow Rolex Testimonee. Despite going clear, Nicola Philippaerts’ slightly slower time saw him slot into third spot. Last to go, current world number 106, Gerrit Nieberg, produced the ride of his life abord his 11-year-old bay gelding, Ben 431, crossing the line over half a second quicker than Brash, thereby winning the 2022 edition of CHIO Aachen’s Rolex Grand Prix and in doing so becoming the new Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender.

On his victory, winning rider, Gerrit Nieberg, commented: “Everything is still unreal – I really didn’t expect this. Dreams definitely came true today – it was an amazing feeling.

On the winner, second placed Scott Brash, said: “Gerrit did a fantastic round. I knew that there was an inside turn to the double and looked to it when I went in, but I didn’t fancy it and no one else had done it. He [Gerrit] had to do it to win and he did it very well, so all credit to him, and fair play. He rode very, very well and his horse jumped great today.”

On his horse, Hello Jefferson, Scott Brash, said: “I’m extremely proud of Jefferson today, he did an amazing job. I couldn’t have asked any more from him. We were beaten by Gerrit who did an unbelievable round.”

On his mare, Katanga V/H Dingeshof, third placed Nicola Philippaerts, commented: “I’m so proud, you can’t imagine – she’s a very special mare. She gave everything and jumped unbelievably well.”

(Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof) (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof)

Rider interview:

Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum

 

You have had some incredible moments here at CHIO Aachen; do you still get a buzz when you arrive here?

Yes, I must say that when I arrived at the show Thusrday, I got a little teary eyed because I have so many great memories here, and there’s so much emotion. The highest point in my riding career occurred at this venue. There were also some low points in between, where I had to be motivated to come back from disappointment and defeat – there was just so much emotion. It’s a wonderful place and it still makes my heart go pitter-patter.

You’ve achieved some phenomenal successes in the sport; do you now feel a responsibility to give something back and help nurture the next generation of show jumping talent?

Yes. I’m at a different point in my life now, showing less and training more, and I’m very happy to do that because I feel as though I can give something back to the sport, particularly young riders, and particularly women. I think I’ve paved the way for women in this sport, showing them that anything is possible, including being number one in the world, as a woman. And to also make the German team, as a woman, which was dominated by males before I came along. It’s very rewarding for me to be at a different point in my life now and to give something back.

We hear a lot that the Aachen crowd supports riders, whether they win or not. What makes the crowd here so special?

It’s a very special feeling when you walk into the arena and there are 40,000 people clapping for you, all crossing their fingers and wishing you the best. This motivates every rider. It’s an incredible experience to ride here, but to win here in this atmosphere in front of this spectator field is indescribable, it gives you the goosebumps.

Away from show jumping, which other sports are you passionate about? Have you experienced any other major championships?

I’m a great spectator of tennis, but not a great player! Not a great golfer, either, but I’m better at it than I am at tennis. I enjoy watching both of those sports at the top level, and I even had the pleasure of going to Wimbledon, as a Rolex Testimonee, and had the opportunity to meet other Rolex Testimonees. But on the side, I try to improve my golf game.

Do you believe any of your young horses have the potential to become future Grand Prix stars?

We have a few really nice, young horses at the moment. I currently have a horse, who I’m riding, who I’ve been bringing along called I’m Blue, and I think he’s definitely going to make it to Grand Prix level.

How about your students – do any have the potential to be future superstars?

Oh yes – I have some great students at the moment. I have a couple of American students, who are very motivated, just like I was. I have a couple of Chinese students, as well. But my best student is, of course, my daughter, who is motivated and has big dreams, although she’s only 12-years-old, but it’s fun for me to watch her aspire to do great things in the sport.

As you’ve just said, your daughter, Brianne, is a very talented show jumper. Do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is inspiring other young talent to pursue careers in the sport?

I think the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has been a major turning point for the equestrian world. All of a sudden we had Rolex come in, which put a new aspiration, even a pinnacle, on the sport, which other sports, such as tennis and golf have. We finally got to a point where we’re on a similar level with some great sports. It’s been a major achievement, and it’s inspired a lot of people to try and achieve the Rolex dream.

(Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder) (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder)

The Vet-Check

Dr. Wilfried Hanbücken

 

What is your role at CHIO Aachen?

I am the president of the veterinary commission so I am responsible for all veterinary affairs. This requires us to carry out examinations on the horses on arrival to see if they’ve travelled well, that they’ve arrived without any infectious diseases, and that they have no fever. With every horse, we then have to perform a veterinary inspection, which consists of a trot-up to check if the horses are lame or not, to check that the tendons look good, and confirm that the horse’s general attitude is fine. For some disciplines, such as eventing, we sometimes have to do that twice, both before and after cross-country, for example. We also have to view horses’ medication.

It is my responsibility to ensure that there is a good veterinary service provided – a vet in each ring and a vet in the stable area. Here in Aachen, there is a whole team of vets, including specialists in diagnosis and specialists in internal medicine. We are very well equipped – we have ultrasound, endoscopy, we have a complete laboratory here on the showground so that we can deliver a first class service to the horses, especially in cases when a horse is injured or not well. It allows us to manage things on-site and find an early diagnosis. Only in the most severe case, where a surgical intervention is necessary, is a horse then referred to a hospital.

Have you worked on any other international equestrian events?

I have been the foreign veterinary delegate for European and World Championships, and also at the Olympic Games. My stand-out experience came when I was part of the veterinary commission at the London 2012 Olympic Games, which was a fantastic event. It was incredible public relations for all equine sports. I’ve had great times in La Baule, which is a good event. However, the one that I like most is CHIO Aachen. I was born in Aachen and I grew up in Aachen. I’ve work on the show for 40 years – I started as a student supporting the vets, then worked as a vet, then became a member of the veterinary commission, and since 1998 I have been the chef of the veterinary commission.

Over the last 20 years, CHIO Aachen has improved greatly. I believe it was the World Equestrian Games (WEG) in 2006 that really gave us a boost. For me, the event was a huge success, and as far as I’m concerned, there’s never been an equestrian event that has had more positive public attention. Since the WEG, this show has grown – we now have additional disciplines here. Before we just had jumping, dressage and driving – additionally we now have eventing and vaulting.

How important is nutrition for a horse’s wellbeing?

The horse requires nutrition that is adequate for the horse. It needs a large amount of roughage and fibre, which is very important for its gut. If horses are put on a diet with too much grain and not enough fibre then the risk of colic is much higher. You need to give a horse basic good food – there is no superfood. A horse also needs basic good training. From time to time you need to take blood samples to see what a horse might be lacking. In my opinion, supplements are both overrated and overused.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to become an equine vet?

You must have a connection to the horse, have empathy for it, and be eager to learn. If you are only concerned about money, there are other far better opportunities than being an equine vet that you should choose. Our profession has a problem motivating young vets. A lot of aspiring vets have found their way into this profession through their love of the horse, but during their studies they also realise that it’s hard work with long hours, including night and weekend duties. Some then decide that they would like a more comfortable life with more normal hours, with no night duties or weekend working, which is a problem for our industry all across Europe. Maybe it’s just a generation problem.

What is a typical day for you like?

I get up at 7am and I will be at the show at 8.30am, where I will spend the whole day. I’m usually not home before 9pm and sometimes not before 11pm or midnight. And that’s not just for me, that’s for most of the veterinary team. I alone cannot do this job. For example, today there are about 20 vets working here. We start with four vets and as the CHIO progresses the number of vets increase, as the final three days of the Festival are the most intense.

Tell us a little bit about your team…

The WEG in 2006 highlighted that we needed a larger veterinary team, and then we additionally had endurance and reining. In 2002 when we won the bid for the WEG, Frank Kemperman came back from Jerez and said that we had to sit down and make plans. The first plan was to enlarge our facilities in the stables and the veterinary centre, while the second plan was to expand the veterinary team. We then had three years to build the team, so I asked some vets that I knew if they were interested and some others joined spontaneously. The eventual team in 2006 was very well welded together, and the nucleus of that team still exists here today, which I’m very happy about. The team is very supportive of each other, closing their own practices, coming from far and wide across Europe, not just from the local area, but from Belgium, The Netherlands, Austria and all over Germany. Every day I look forward to the show and being here, but it’s always hard work.

When you retire, what legacy would you like to leave in equestrianism?

What I’ve tried to achieve, which has been partially successful, was when the relationship between the official vets and the treating vets improved. The official vets don’t just see themselves as policemen any longer, but also as advisors, and the treating vets are taking this advice. The cooperation of both groups has brought not just a better relationship but also better understanding of the sport, and ultimately a better situation for the horse.

In your opinion, what more can be, and should be, done to improve the welfare of the horse?

There are multiple things that can be done. But for me, the main thing is for the main decisionmakers to ensure that their horses have proper phases of rest, of reduced training and, for certain events, must be specially trained. A horse cannot go through the year on the same level of performance – no horse can sustain that. Most of the good riders that you see here at CHIO Aachen understand that. There must be better controls, whether that’s by improved vet inspections and doping controls, more consistent judging. I still believe that it is still possible to bring the sport on to an even higher level, which is achieved by good horsemanship and ensuring that everything is done for the good of the horse.

(Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof) (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof)

Mclain Ward wins the RWE Prize Of North Rhine-Westphalia

 

Fifty of the world’s best show jumpers and their equine partners contested Friday’s feature jumping class – the RWE Prize of North Rhine-Westphalia – in front of an excited and enthusiastic crowd, which would serve as the final opportunity for riders to qualify for Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix, one of the four Majors which comprises the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.

A 1.60m competition featuring a jump-off, the Frank Rothenberger-designed course included 14 obstacles, providing a tough challenge to a line-up that included 1992 Individual Olympic champion, Germany’s Ludger Beerbaum, fellow compatriot and the current Rolex Grand Slam Live Contender, Daniel Deusser, and Swiss maestro and Rolex Testimonee, Steve Guerdat.

Sixteen combinations eventually navigated the first round fault-free, advancing to the jump-off, which would be contested over a shorter eight-obstacle, but no less demanding, course. The first five riders to go, including Ireland’s Conor Swail and Germany’s Jana Wargers, each picked up one fault; however, sixth to go, Frenchman Nicolas Delmotte, soon broke the trend going double clear in 42.95 seconds. Delmotte’s clear was shortly emulated by Germany’s Christian Kukuk and Jur Vrieling of The Netherlands, with the latter crossing the line in 42.79 seconds to temporarily take top spot. Vrieling’s lead however was short-lived, with current world number 29-ranked rider, Steve Guerdat knocking over four tenths off his time.

With two riders to go, including Dutchman Harrie Smolders and McLain Ward from the USA, Guerdat faced an anxious wait, hoping his time would be unbeatable. However, Wednesday’s winner of the Turkish Airlines-Prize of Europe, McLain Ward, and his consistent partner, Contagious, soon demonstrated their harmony and class, knocking Guerdat off top spot, crossing the line in 41.70 seconds to claim the honours.

Delighted with his second win in as many days aboard his 13-year-old chestnut gelding, Ward, commented: “I think he’s [Contagious] on really good form and we’re aiming him towards the World Championships, it’s one of the reasons we had this week planned for him, so we’ll stick to our plan and hopefully be able to be in the mix.”

On his partner for Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix, Ward, said: “It’s always nice to have a good week, as it gives you confidence. It makes you take a breath and focus. Azur [HH Azur] is older now and I know her very well, she’s my old friend. We’ll just do what we do, I don’t think today or Wednesday has much to do with what’s going to happen on Sunday. We’ll just focus and do the best job we can on the day.”

(Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder) (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder)

Walking the Course with:

Frank Rothenberger

 

What do you like to do away from show jumping?

I sail a lot, sometimes three or four times a year. Six weeks ago, I went to Croatia, and later this year I’ll go back to Croatia, and also visit Majorca, the Mediterranean, Thailand and the Caribbean. I go skiing with some of my friends, who are riders, including Lars Nieberg and Otto Becker – as junior riders we did the German Championships together when we were 16, 17, 18. We’re now planning to go to skiing in America, but two of the team are a bit older and a little bit sceptical, but I said to them, ‘if we don’t go now, we will never go’.

What does a typical day for you at a show look like?

I get up every morning at about 5.30am or 6am. I arrive at the showground at around 7am, depending on when the first class will start. Generally, we prepare for the following day, so if I come in on Wednesday morning, we will be preparing for Thursday. All the work for today is done – all the plans are organised and supplied. Measurements and distances and sponsors’ jumps – these are all the little things we have to organise. We supply the course plans the night before, so during the day everybody knows what to do. We have almost 50 people in five groups in the arena, mostly all course designers. It's a good atmosphere, and everybody works very hard. We have four nights where we must build during the night – last night the class finished at 10pm and then we worked until 1.30am this morning. We will do the same tomorrow night.

What advice would you give to a budding course designer?

Someone wanting to be a course designer should be a rider first, to know the feeling of how to ride a course. Then you need a lot of passion; you must love it. If you just go into course designing to make money, it will not work. My daughter is becoming a course designer at the moment – she's doing the FEI level two seminar this year, and she's doing some small international shows with me. She is also doing some big events; she assists with the European Championships. She was in Aachen last year and is doing a show next week on her own. My advice is that you must continue course designing permanently – not just once or twice a year.

How do you see the future of course designing?

Course designing is always developing – it runs parallel to our education around horses. As the riding improves, the strides are getting smaller, so we have to adjust the distance combinations between jumps. I’ve done this job for 40 years, and when I started, we had big bulky jumps, but this has almost gone. Now we have smaller, more open jumps with light poles. The length of the poles has reduced to 3.5m here in Aachen, when before it was always four metres. We changed this about six or seven years ago, so the jumps are much lighter now. It's very difficult nowadays to get the right number of clears. Years ago, out of 40 riders, 10 could win the class, but nowadays 30 are sometimes in contention.

What’s your favourite course designing memory?

I remember here at Aachen, we once had 25 horses in a class and the course we built had every jump down except one. Out of 25 horses! That was a really, really nice course and I always remember it. Another memory was when I was in Calgary, and they asked me to supply the course plans before the show. I said, ‘no, I haven't been here before, so I must see the ring, the arena, and the position of the cameras first’. And then they forced me to do the course plan. In the end we had to change everything because we had a lot of rain overnight so the plans no longer worked, so we had to prepare everything all over again.

When and where was the first course that you designed, as head course designer?

I believe it was a national show, and I built a course with 20 jumps, but that was maybe 40 years ago. I remember when I built my first Nations Cup course in 1992 in Poland. I wasn’t actually allowed to build it because my name wasn’t on the list, but a Polish course designer put his name on paper, but I built it. That was really funny. I’ve done 97 Nation Cups so far – and really hope to reach 100.

Which course designer has inspired you the most throughout your career?

I worked for 10 years with Olaf Petersen and at that time he was the most outstanding course designer in the world. Nowadays, we have lots of good course designers, which means we have very good courses all around the world. I’d say we currently have nine or 10 top course designers on the global circuit, so it's difficult to pick just one.

Tell us about this Sunday’s course and who you think will win the Rolex Grand Prix?

The riders are all really well prepared, and I expect to see some horses on Sunday, who haven't competed previously this week. I just hope we don’t get too many surprises, like too many clears or not enough clears! The Grand Prix course is really technical and enormous, but as ever it will be over two rounds, with eighteen pairs advancing to the second round. For me, a good result would be to end up with between 10 and 13 clears from the first round, and then three or four double clears. This is my wish. All this makes our sport so interesting – you just don't know the result beforehand, and it could work out very well. Sometimes you don’t have a jump-off, but the class can still be absolutely thrilling without it!

(Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Kit Houghton) (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Kit Houghton)

Word from the Organiser:

Michael Mronz

 

 

You must be delighted that this year’s edition of the CHIO Aachen is going ahead with full capacity?

Yes – we are very happy. It is the first, full capacity CHIO Aachen to take place in the last three years [since 2019]. It is great to have all the best riders from around the world compete here, do the show and in particular, take part in the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday.

Is there anything new this year that CHIO Aachen has introduced?

One of the major developments and focus areas has been the digital movement to improve the communication issues, which now means some classes that are not on television are available to watch. We have 109 hours of equestrian sport here across five disciplines and only about 30 hours are shown on television. So there has been a lot of content which is simply not being shown on television. Hence, we have been trying to see which target groups we could reach via new social media channels. One example is TikTok, which allows us to reach the younger audience effectively. On TikTok, viewers can now follow classes live on the app that are not shown on television. We really focused on what we could do with the amazing content that we have and how we could amplify it.

We are also evolving and have ventured into the metaverse and NFT space. In the CHIO Aachen Metaverse, the NFT is a “CHIO horse” and there are 1,000 horses available. Owners of such an NFT automatically become members of an exclusive community – the “CHIO Horse Club”. The first one was presented to McLain Ward yesterday evening [Wednesday 29 June]. As with all new innovations, it takes time to develop the metaverse offering but it is a really great opportunity and one that adds another element of fun to CHIO.

Are you taking any inspiration from other big shows or sports?

Absolutely. However, I am someone who recognises that lessons can be learned, and inspiration can be drawn, from not only the biggest shows but the smaller ones, too. It is important not to be arrogant and look to all events. There are numerous examples of small events with great ideas and it is often these events that are the most innovative, as they have to overcome a range of challenges due to their size and access, such as getting into the media. It is very interesting to see this constant innovation but it is not just in equestrian. We always look broader and into the wider sports world.

One big point for us in the future is going to be focusing more specifically on adding youth riders to the Aachen show. We can already see this year with the Youth Olympic Games taking part here in Aachen and we want to start developing a close relationship with the young riders at an earlier stage, rather than when they have reached the senior level. We want to involve the younger riders in the main events in some capacity. For example, when the farewells happen in the evening at the Aachen show, we will look to integrate the younger riders into the ceremony so they ride into a sold-out arena of 40,000 spectators after the Rolex Grand Slam. This experience will help ensure they really get a taste for and understand what is so special about Aachen. The aim is to inspire aspiring riders and get them dreaming about riding at Aachen. We also want to build a second stadium arena, an indoor arena. We are in discussions right now with the politicians to help accelerate the process.

What qualities do you look for in team members? And what makes a successful team?

To be a successful team you need to start from the point of view that you can be just as successful as a team. There needs to be the understanding that each member has an important role to play in achieving collective success. It is also important to be constantly looking to improve and to analyse the team’s strengths and weaknesses. Being reflective like this allows you to strengthen the team in core areas. If you have strong team members working together, it will be beneficial for the whole team. It is important to not be afraid of bringing in the best possible individuals to work in your team.

You’re very involved in the development of the North Rhine-Westphalia region in terms of sport and entertainment. Can you tell us a little bit about your hopes and aspirations?

In terms of aspirations, we would love to apply for the next Olympic and Paralympic Games. The IOC has a new regulation that looks at the level of infrastructure a particular city or region has. Regions are now able to apply for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Take the Rhine-Ruhr region for example, it has 90% of the infrastructure already in place and can present sport disciplines like show jumping, riding, dressage, eventing, swimming, hockey, basketball, handball and volleyball with large spectator crowds – 40-50,000 in some cases. Not having to build brand new arenas because the infrastructure is already in place means nothing has to be purpose-built for the Olympic and Paralympic Games and is a huge advantage.

At the same time, within a 600km radius – and 6 hours by train – you can reach more than 220 million people. We have large capacity venues, huge crowds and from a sustainability point of view, it is easy to come to Germany by train. It raises the interesting question of whether we should bring the Games to the people or the people to the Games? I support the idea of hosting the Games in the region and think it would be great.

What are you most looking forward to seeing this week?

I am really looking forward to Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix, part of the Rolex Grand Slam. Everyone in show jumping is looking forward to that prestigious event and then, of course, the dressage. It doesn’t matter if someone is winning or losing, the Aachen spectators are really supportive and celebrate every rider, which is great to see.

(Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof) (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof)

McLain Ward wins the Turkish Airlines-Prize of Europe

 

Fifty six horse and rider combinations – each with their sights set on early qualification for Sunday’s pinnacle Rolex Grand Prix class – contested the 2022 edition of CHIO Aachen’s Turkish Airlines-Prize of Europe, a 1.60m competition over two rounds, which got underway in beautiful North Rhine-Westphalia evening sunshine and culminated under the Hauptstadion’s dazzling floodlights.

The Frank Rothenberger-designed course, which consisted of 14 obstacles in the first round and eight in the second, attracted 12 of the world’s top 20 ranked riders, including current number one, Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs, and Britain’s Harry Charles, who leads the U25 rankings.

With just the top 14 riders after round one progressing to round two, a faultless performance and a quick time were crucial. Rolex Testimonee, 2021’s winner of the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen, and current Rolex Grand Slam Live Contender, Germany’s Daniel “Double D” Deusser was on blistering form with his 11-year-old stallion, Bingo Ste Hermelle, with the pair eventually topping the leader board after the first round. Other riders to note, who advanced to round two included the talented 26-year-old American, Spencer Smith, promising U25 French rider, Megane Moissonnier, and on-form Irishman, Conor Swail.

Despite double clears from Conor Swail and fellow countryman Darragh Kenny, Megane Moissonnier, former Major winner, Austria’s Max Kühner and Mexico’s Nicolas Pizarro, Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs and his superstar gelding Conner Jei appeared to be on another level, crossing the line in 41.48 seconds. However, USA’s McLain Ward and his 13-year-old gelding Contagious were determined to upset Team Fuchs’ celebrations, pipping him to top spot by just seven hundredths of a second, which is where the pair remained after last to go Daniel Deusser put a pole down.

Thrilled with his partner, Ward commented: “He [Contagious] has a lot of quirks and he’s a little bit afraid of everything, and quite sharp in the schooling area with the other horses, so we have to manage that a little bit. But when he goes into the ring, he builds himself up, he believes in me, I think, and he throws his heart over first. He’s done some remarkable things, not things I thought he’d do in the beginning. He’s a smart horse and he believes in what we’re doing.

Ahead of Sunday’s Rolex Grand Prix, Ward said: “I kind of always say that Aachen is like the girl I can never get! I’ve been lucky enough to compete in some major Grands Prix all over the world, but I can’t get this one. I’ve been close and I’ve had the last one down in the jump-off, and it’s the one I’ve dreamed of since I was a small child. I try not to think about it, we try to do our best every day, and I’ll try to be in the hunt.”

(Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof) (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof)

Meet the Next Gen with:

Chloe Reid

 

What are you hoping to achieve between now and the end of the year?

I'm hoping for an amazing week here at CHIO Aachen, and then I’ll spend the rest of the summer months in Europe before we head back to Florida in the winter.

Which horses have you brought to CHIO Aachen?

I've brought my amazing mare, Super Shuttle, who will jump the Nations’ Cup, and my younger horse, Charlotta, who I’m jumping in the Youngsters. Shuttle is definitely my ride – she has a lot of character, a lot of blood. People always make fun that I always add a lot of strides with her out on course, but it's a style that I like and she has all of the heart in the world. People might not think she can do it, but she will try her hardest every single day for me – Charlotta has so much scope, I feel like I could jump a house with her! It's been really fun getting to know her and learn with her.

What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?

Can I say being here?! This is an unbelievable experience for me. It's something I've dreamed of my whole life, so to be able to be here, chosen by the U.S. team, to come and represent my country is the ultimate dream.

Who has inspired you the most throughout your career?

I'd say my family is a large inspiration for me. Neither of my parents ride, but they've always supported me from the very beginning and without them, this wouldn’t be possible.

My uncle, Chester Edward, is also here and competes in the driving. He's been a large influence in my equestrian career, as well as my grandmother. She has the love of horses in her blood and that's how I got it. Without my family, I wouldn't be here.

What keeps you motivated?

I think the horses are a large motivation. I love the horses, so having that bond with them is amazing.

I also think the competitiveness of the sport motivates me. I'm a very competitive person, so waking up every day to try to be better and improve is something that really motivates me.

Which senior show jumper do you most look up to?

That's hard. But being here in Germany, I’d have to say Marcus Ehning is a huge inspiration – his style is incredible.

How positive do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam has been for the sport of show jumping?

I think the Rolex Grand Slam is amazing for our sport. It’s on TV, you can watch it on the internet – it's amazing. It's everywhere you go. People know these Majors and they understand the prestige and history behind it. To be here is amazing and I think the Rolex Grand Slam is fantastic for our sport.

Have you been to any other non-equestrian sporting events this year? How do they differ from the Majors?

When we were at the London Olympics we watched a lot of different sports, like swimming, diving and volleyball. It was really fun to see a lot of other top sports at their elite level.

Which Rolex Testimonee inspires you the most?

I trained with Markus Beerbaum and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum for a very long time, so I'd have to say Meredith is a real inspiration, as a Rolex Testimonee.

(Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof) (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof)

Behind the stable door with:

Phoebe Leger, Daniel Bluman's groom

 

How long did it take you to get to CHIO Aachen, and how do you keep yourself entertained on long lorry drives?

It was approximately a two hour drive from the stables near Brussels to CHIO Aachen. I drove myself in our small truck and the horses followed behind me. When I'm not driving, to keep myself entertained, I watch Instagram videos, TikTok, and things like that. I also watch Rolex Grand Slam’s Instagram channel a lot!

Do you feel more pressure when you are at one of the Majors that make up the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping?

Definitely. CHIO Aachen is one of Daniel’s [Bluman] top events. We go to all of the Majors and there is a lot of pressure to do well every time we come. Out of the four Majors, I’d have to say CHIO Aachen is my favourite. I love the atmosphere here and the showgrounds are fantastic. It’s like a small city with so much to do all in one place. I have lots of friends here and I am friends with almost every groom in my aisle – the camaraderie is really great.

Which horses do you have with you this week?

This week I have Ladriano [Ladriano Z], Gemma [Gemma W] and Cachemire De Braize. Ladriano is 14-years-old and has been doing this a long time. Hopefully this week we have really good results with him in the Grand Prix. Gemma is 11-years-old and has just been coming up into the big classes since last year and is very promising. Cashmere is our younger one – he is 10-years-old. Like Gemma, Cashmere is just coming up into the big classes and he is a great anchor horse for us at the big shows.

How have you been preparing them for CHIO Aachen?

At home, I have spent the past week clipping all of the horses, bathing them, making sure all of the tack is ready and ensuring all of the horses are in shape. While Daniel was away at the other shows, I helped ride them and keep them fit. In short, there’s a lot of preparation that goes into this!

Do you think the horses know the importance of an event like CHIO Aachen?

Ladriano definitely does! The other two – Gemma and Cashmere – are just very easy and travel wherever you want but Ladriano knows when it’s time to do the big ones. He gets very excited in his stall. He starts bucking and rearing. He gets very excited whenever we travel anywhere. He is just all for the sport and all for the game. He has such a personality!

How much riding do you do?

I ride almost every day on one or two horses – especially when at home. I do a lot of tack walking while Daniel is away and also warm up his horses.

What is your favourite part of the job?

My favourite part of the job is seeing the horses every day. I have been with them for so long now – almost three years. Especially with these three horses, I have been with and taken care of them since day one so it’s wonderful to see them grow and achieve new things every year.

What is your least favourire part of the job?

The long days when you start at 5am or 6am and don’t finish until 7pm or 8pm at night. Even then, it’s worthwhile but the long days are rough sometimes!

What advice would you give to someone considering a career as a groom in elite show jumping?

Follow where your heart wants to take you and where it feels like you are a family. A lot of people do it for the money and think this money doesn’t pay me enough so I want to find a new job that pays me more. But a lot of the time, if you are happy where you are, then it doesn’t matter how much you make. You need to find something that you love, stick with it and that’s why I have been with Daniel for three years now. I love every day and I am very happy with my life.

 

(Photo: Rolex / Peggy Schröder) (Photo: Rolex / Peggy Schröder)

 

You are the Rolex Grand Slam live contender once again, how are you feeling ahead of CHIO Aachen?

I am very excited! It is always very difficult to win the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen, so to win it two years in a row would be phenomenal. I think that being the Rolex Grand Slam live contender definitely makes it more interesting. Even without being the live contender the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO is always one of my main aims each year.

CHIO Aachen is one of the biggest stages in equestrian sport, and in your home country, do you feed off the energy and support from the crowd?

CHIO Aachen is such an incredible show. It is one of the biggest shows in the world, and on Sunday during the Rolex Grand Prix there are 40,000 people sitting in the stadium – it creates the most amazing atmosphere. I definitely think that both me and my horse feed off the energy from the home crowd – they add so much to the show. CHIO Aachen is very special and unique – all the best riders in the world want to win there.

How have you been preparing and which horse are you hoping to compete with in the Rolex Grand Prix?

I am planning on competing with Killer Queen VDM in the Rolex Grand Prix. She has competed at CHIO Aachen and in the main stadium for a number of years, and she feels really relaxed and comfortable there. She has also won there a lot; in 2018 she won the Sparkassen Youngster Cup, in 2019 she won the RWE Prize of North Rhine-Westphalia and then obviously the Rolex Grand Prix last year. I think that the arena really suits her – she has big stride and is a big forward mover and so having more space is better for her.

She did a couple of outdoor shows very early in the season. When we came back from Florida, she did one or two shows, but I have now given her about four of weeks off. CHIO Aachen will be the first show back after her break but I am still riding and training her at home. My plan for CHIO Aachen will be do a small warm-up class early in the week, then do a big class to get into a rhythm and prepare her for the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday.

Have you also been thinking ahead to the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’?

I would love to take Killer Queen VDM to CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’. However, the problem is it is the week after our home show, the Brussels Stephex Masters. If I have enough horses at the right level then I will try and go to CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, but I will have to see a bit later in the year.

You travel a lot for competitions - which is your favourite country to travel to and why?

I really like Spain. I think it is a really welcoming country that has great weather and delicious food. I always have a great time when I am there. I have been there a couple of times for the holidays and obviously for shows – I really like Spain.

The equestrian calendar is very full! How do you decide which shows to enter and which horses to compete with?

It really depends on the experience and preferences of the horses. For example, Killer Queen VDM prefers and performs the best in big grass arenas. So that is one way I choose, I look at which horse would best suit a show and then we will plan to go there. There are also some shows that are always in my calendar and that I go to every year – CHIO Aachen is one of those shows, and so I try and make sure that I have my horses ready for this show. Often, I will look at how a horse performed at the shows last year and whether they like smaller indoor arenas or bigger outdoors ones and I will plan according to that.

Do you watch other sports or follow other athletes? If so, how do they influence you as a professional sports athlete?

I was invited by Rolex to go to Roland Garros two weeks ago. I saw the quarter final between Nadal and Djokovic. I have to say it was inspiring to watch the way they cope with the atmosphere and their fitness. As an athlete, when you see that kind of atmosphere it inspires to get better and train harder. Our sport is very unique because the horse is also the athlete so you have to ensure that both you and the horse are fit enough and can cope with the atmosphere.

Frank Kemperman (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder) Frank Kemperman (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder)

 

CHIO Aachen Chairman, Frank Kemperman, is set to retire following an incredible 29 years of service to the show. The Rolex Grand Slam team interviewed him to find out how the show has evolved and what he will miss most.

You have had 29 incredible years with CHIO Aachen, what have been the three main highlights for you?

My highlight has to be the FEI World Equestrian Games in 2006 – I had been involved in other championships before, but nothing will compare to those held at CHIO Aachen. It was a lot of hard work for our team, and I think I got my first grey hairs, but it was such a success. Even now people still talk about those Games, and I think we wrote an important part of history with them. It is difficult for me to choose two other highlights as we have had so many incredible shows and classes!

How has your career evolved throughout the years?

CHIO Aachen is steeped in history. In 2024 it will celebrate its 100-year anniversary and the club will be almost 125-years-old. I used to go the show as a child and there was always something magic about it – in my opinion it is the best show in the world. It is so important to keep the traditions that we have at the show, but also crucial that we continue to innovate and change with the world. Quality is also key, as a show we strive for the best of everything, and that combined with the traditions and innovation makes CHIO Aachen the best in the world!

When I started, I was doing shows all around the world, and then CHIO Aachen approached. Initially I thought it was a bit strange that the German’s were asking a Dutchman, but I was already heavily involved in the media centre at the show. I think they wanted to become more professional and modern. Together with the show I have helped to make the facilities better and lots of things have been changed and modernised, whilst ensuring the traditions and history of the show remain.

The show is now looking towards the future by trying to innovate and I think that that is something every show or event should try to do. I remember when I first started working at CHIO Aachen there were five or six people in the office, and now today there are around 35 people. Back then we did not have a single in-house professional for media, just had a lady from the local newspaper who would come by once a month to see if we had any news to share – now we have a specific media department with 10 people.

At the 2006 FEI World Equestrian Games we had the use of the internet, but social media was not in existence. The world has changed so much, and we always tried to follow and adapt to these changes – for example social media is now a huge part of the show. I remember when I first came to the office, we had one electric typewriter and there were no computers. Today, people would not cope without the use of computers. I think this shows how much things have changed over the time that I have been Chairman. But, what is amazing about CHIO Aachen is how we always look towards the future and innovate.

What will you miss the most?

Of course, I will miss CHIO Aachen, but I am going to be part of the Supervisory Board, so I will still be involved. I think the change in routine will be difficult – every morning for the last 29-years I have gotten out of bed and gone to the office, but I do think that Covid-19 has made that transition easier. I think it is time for the next generation to take over. I am getting older, and so it is normal to let younger people take on the role. It was Father’s Day in Holland on Sunday [Sunday 12 June], and I got a very funny book about retiring. CHIO Aachen was here before I was the Chairman and it will be after – my name is not what is important, the most important thing is the show and the success of it going into the future.

What do you plan to do with your spare time?

I am still involved in The Dutch Masters and Maastricht in the Netherlands, and I am part of the Dutch Equestrian Olympic Committee as will as the Chairman of Grooms. Grooms are the most important people in the sport.

My wife is trying to make me become a gardener – but I really do not know the difference between weeds and flowers. But my most important job now is being a grandfather. I have a two-year-old granddaughter who lives in the same village as me, and I love spending time with her.

Who has been the most influential person you have worked with over the years?

I think the horses have been the most influential – we work in such a unique sport. We have to listen to the horses and understand what is best for them. The outside world is now more critical of our sport so we must ensure that the welfare of the horses is our top priority. We have to make sure that we can continue to do the sport we all love so much.

To name just one person is hard – but to be honest I think the most influential person would have to be my wife because without support from home you cannot do the job.

What does it take for an event to become a Major?

There are so many amazing horse shows organised around the world and of course you always want to be the best show in the sport. It is challenging to get people who are not horse lovers interested in the sport. The special thing about CHIO Aachen is the spectators and the number of them that come – they create the most amazing atmosphere. At many other shows, even if there are the top riders jumping the atmosphere is not the same – it is what makes CHIO Aachen so unique. We have two different types of people that come to the show. Firstly,  the horse lovers who go to shows every week and secondly  the fans who don’t have horses but come every year because they love the atmosphere and like to watch sport.

You don’t have to be a horse lover to have a fantastic day at CHIO Aachen. There are thousands of people who love the event, and they shop, have food and drink. It is the total atmosphere that makes CHIO Aachen great, and that is what we have to offer. We don’t just listen to what the horse people want and need. You must also have good relationships with the riders as well and understand what they need.

I have visited many shows, I think I have seen almost everything, but to be honest the events where I learnt the most are not equestrian ones.  We went to Roland-Garros, The Championships, Wimbledon and other big events to learn what they were doing and how they make their events unforgettable for spectators. In our sport, we must cater for a range of ages, as unlike football where 80% of the crowd would be male, the majority of ours is families, so we have to ensure that everyone is happy.

Everything around the sport should be spectacular to make it an unforgettable day and I think that helps make a show a ‘Major’. CHIO Aachen is one the best equestrian events in the world, but our goal is to be on the front page of every newspaper in the world and show that we are not only a horse event.

Which horse and rider combination has been your favourite to watch compete at CHIO Aachen?

There have been so many! Of course, there are some riders that you know more in your private life, and it is always nice to watch them be successful. Last year, it was incredible to watch the young American team win the Nations Cup™ - they were so happy to win such a big event. It was a fantastic moment in the sport, and so great to watch the next generation of show jumpers loving the sport. It is also amazing to watch Isabell Werth be so dominant in the dressage; and of course, an amazing moment was watching the father and son combination of Rodrigo and Nelson Pessoa come first and third in the Rolex Grand Prix in 1994. Moments like those are unbelievable, and hopefully in the future I will have more time to watch them!

How do you think the Show can evolve over the next 10 years?

CHIO Aachen is so special – it provides the best sport in the world and has the incredible grass arena. They have some traditions that I think they should not change, but they should also try to innovate and look at what can be done better. The show is all about ensuring high quality, and making sure that the welfare of the horses, the spectators experience and the media response are the best that they can be. It is like making a cake; you need all of the right ingredients to make it delicious and in CHIO Aachen’s case that includes sponsors, riders, media, horses and so on. The show needs to try and make sure that all of the key stakeholders are happy to have the best show possible. So many things have changed over the last 30-years, but the quality is still there, for example with the Rolex Grand Prix on the final Sunday. Overall, I think if they keep the traditions of the sport but also look to innovate then CHIO Aachen will continue to be the best in the world.

(Photo: Rolex / Ashley Neuhof) (Photo: Rolex / Ashley Neuhof)

 

The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping returns to CHIO Aachen from 24 June – 03 July 2022, with the Rolex Grand Prix on the final Sunday providing a fitting end to two weeks of exceptional sport. Returning to it usual slot between The Dutch Masters and Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, the event often compared The Championships, Wimbledon will welcome 40,000 passionate equestrian spectators back the pristine Aachen Soers showground.

Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping – Rider Watch

Daniel Deusser returns to the hallowed grounds as both the live contender of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, following his victory at The Dutch Masters in March, and the defending champion of the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen. The German, currently ranked World No.9 brings the talented mare Killer Queen VDM with him to defend their title and continue his conquest to become only the second person to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. Deusser will be joined by six of his fellow Rolex Testimonees, as well as numerous talented German riders including Christian Ahlmann, André Thieme and Marcus Ehning.

World No.1 and winner of the 2021 Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva Martin Fuchs will be looking to claim the non-consecutive bonus for winning two Rolex Grands Prix in a year. The Swiss has had an incredible first half the year securing the FEI World Cup Finals title in April and more recently winning the 5* Swiss Grand Prix. He has strength and depth in his string of horses and will be looking to carry his winning momentum into the main stadium of the Aachen Soers showground. Compatriot and fellow Rolex Testimonee Steve Guerdat will also be looking to build on his vast winning experience to claim his first victory in this respected class.

Tokyo 2020 Individual Olympic Games gold medallist Ben Maher will be looking to add a victory in the Rolex Grand Prix to his impressive collection of results. The Englishman finished in fourth-place last year on his impressive chestnut gelding, Explosion W. Long-term teammate Scott Brash, the only rider to have won the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, knows what it takes to take to win in the beautiful grass arena and will be hoping to restart his quest for a second Grand Slam. Joining the strong British contingent is the Under-25 World No.1, and World No.17 Harry Charles. Charles has had a meteoric rise through the senior rankings over the past year. The young British rider will be returning the iconic venue following his debut in 2018 and will be looking to cement his name amongst the best riders in the world.

2022 Rolex Grand Prix winners Ashlee Bond (World Equestrian Festival) and Gregory Wathelet (CHI Royal Windsor Horse Show), all know what it takes to win a Rolex Grand Prix and will be relying on this experience to help them claim one of the most prestigious prizes in show jumping.

Show jumping legend Rodrigo Pessoa returns to Aachen exactly 50-years after his father, Nelson Pessoa, claimed his second CHIO Aachen Grand Prix win. Marlon Modolo Zanotelli will also be vying to ensure the Brazilian flag is represented on the podium. Off the back of recent victories in in Paris and the Nations Cup at CSIO Roma Piazza di Siena, Frenchman Kevin Staut, will be full of confidence of his talented horses heading into CHIO Aachen.

Joining the list of world-class horse and rider combinations is World No.3 Peder Fredricson, who is always a fierce competitor and heading up the Irish contingent is World No. 5 Conor Swail who brings two of his top horses; Count on Me and Nadal Hero & DB.  

(Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder) (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder)

 

It has been nearly a year since your sensational CHIO Aachen Rolex Grand Prix second place, what have you been doing since?

So many things! That was such a monumental show for me and such a wonderful experience. After that, I gave some horses some downtime and I spent the winter competing in Wellington, Florida. Now, I am back in Europe this summer doing a lot of shows for Team USA which is always such an honour. I’ve got a few more horses this year compared to last year so I am competing more. I am still trying to move forward and keep going onward and upward.

How is Balou du Reventon, do you plan on riding him this year at CHIO Aachen?

Balou du Reventon is fantastic; we have some goals for him later in the year that we are working towards. I competed with him in the Nations Cup at CSIO Roma Piazza di Siena the other week and he jumped brilliantly there. He was clear in the second round of the Nations Cup but unfortunately hit the last fence in the Grand Prix. He feels in top shape ­– he is such a great stallion. He is sixteen this year, so we use him sparingly, but we definitely pull him out when we need to, and he does his job which is the great part about it.

How do you keep a horse of his age in such good shape?

I think it is so important to understand the horse and to listen to them. He has so much personality, he is really going to let you know when it is too much or when he is not doing enough. I have a great team at my stables especially Lesley Leeman who is his primary caretaker. We take it day by day to see how he’s doing and to make sure he is always fit and as healthy as he can be, so when he needs to perform he is ready at all times.

Who are currently your top horses, and do you have some exciting younger horses who you think are future stars?

Absolutely, I have another horse right now at the five-star level who t I own myself. I’ve had him for about seven years, his name is ‘MTM Vivre Le Reve’. He was in America last year and had some time off with illness, but now he is back at the top of the sport. He is 13-years-old but he still has a couple of years left. I have a very promising nine-year-old owned by Anne Thompson [the same owner as Balou du Reventon]. I also have a couple of young horses that are look promising, including a seven-year-old of mine that is coming up through the rankings. It is so important to always have the horses coming up after your top level horses especially as they get older.

There are so many events in the show jumping calendar, how do you choose which ones to focus on and which horses to compete with?

At the beginning of the year it is important to make a plan for the horses that you have and the things you want to accomplish. For example, riding for Team USA is so important to me so I have geared Balou du Reventon towards those events primarily. I will keep him fresh for those events so that he peaks in those moments.

Do you find European competition different from the US circuit?

Yes, I do. Last year, I didn’t know what to expect when I came to Europe, I obviously knew the best riders in the world as well as the legends that I have looked up to my entire life, mainly compete in Europe. But it wasn’t until that first 5* event, which was in the first week that I was over here last year, that I thought to myself ‘oh my goodness’. I think it is incredible to go to these shows and compete with seven of the top ten riders in a single class. For me it really motivates me to be just like them and be competitive with those top riders at the top level of the sport. It is very motivational and it makes me very competitive – it is fun to be with people you used to look up to and now see them as ‘competitors’.

Of the four Majors that make up the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, which is your favourite?

For sure CHIO Aachen. I love the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ Tournament ; but CHIO Aachen will always have a special place in my heart. Out of the majors, all of them are fantastic shows that I really look forward to competing at, but CHIO Aachen holds a special spot.

What non-equestrian sport do you think show jumping can most be compared to?

I notice a lot of similarities to Formula 1, which I am sure a lot of riders would agree with. Ultimately to me, show jumping is such a unique sport that it is almost impossible to compare it to something else, but I would say that is as similar as you can get. 

All we need now is a ‘Ride to Survive’ Netflix show?

Exactly, ‘Ride to Survive’ that has a ring to it - that is amazing!

What are the most important foundations to having a successful career in Show Jumping?

To connect with your horses is the most important thing. I started my career because of my love for the horses. What you put into them is what they will bring out for you, and I think it is really important not to lose touch of that. Whether you have one horse or you have 15 horses they are all athletes the same way you are and they have emotion, they feel and are top competitors. I think it is so important for them to feel appreciated, to get the best care and to really listen to them. You must understand your horse and remind yourself why you do it. For me, it was because I was a crazy horse kid since I was a baby and that has never changed.

When you are not competing or training, what do you like to do with your down time?

In my down time? That is a good question! I really use it as a time to unwind and regroup, whether that be physically or mentally. I love to cook, so I cook a lot when I am home, I enjoy that very much – but I am not very good at it! I see a lot of people at the shows, a lot of my closest friends and my family come to all the shows, so I get to spend time with them there. So when I am home, not competing, I like to take time for myself and get ready for the next few weeks that are coming up after that time off.

What is your signature dish?

There are so many, but I do make really good shrimp tacos!

If you could ride any horse past or present which would you choose?

I would have loved to ride Hickstead he was such a powerhouse type horse even though he was small; he was quick, and he was clever. I have always loved and had a soft spot for small horses so I think to ride that horse would be amazing and he was such a true athlete. Although I never knew the horse personally, he seemed a bit quirky and had a lot character, so I think I would have definitely loved to ride like that horse.

CHIO Aachen CHIO Aachen

From 24 June – 03 July, CHIO Aachen will welcome the return of the world’s best horse and rider combinations to the spectacular grounds of the Aachen Soers Showground. Providing unmatched atmosphere and competition, including five equestrian disciplines, the World Equestrian Festival will also welcome back a full capacity crowd of 40,000 for the first time since 2019.

The show will officially open on 28 June with an arena extravaganza featuring 200 horses, 500 extras, as well as extraordinary artists and performers including superstar singer Wincent Weiss. A highlight for many will be a special performance from the "Höhner", who have recorded a new song exclusively for the opening of the World Equestrian Festival.

This year’s event will focus on youth and young talent more than ever, including local street art being on display. The first weekend will include numerous young rider show jumping classes as well as Vaulters competing in the Driving Stadium. CHIO Aachen will also host the FEI Youth Equestrian Games for the first time. The Games will include 30 young show jumpers, aged between 14 and 18-years-old, from 30 different nations ranging from Egypt and Guatemala to New Zealand and Uzbekistan. The talented riders will compete in the Main Stadium in both an individual and a cross-continental competition.

Often compared to The Championships, Wimbledon – CHIO Aachen showcases the some of the best show jumping in the world. On the evening of Wednesday 29 June, the Turkish Airlines-Prize of Europe, one of the world's most renowned show jumping competitions will take place. As the first qualifier for the prestigious Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday, it is expected the best athletes will be fighting to claim this respected title. The Mercedes-Benz Nations Cup will take place the evening after, with the top eight teams in the world competing. With the FEI World Equestrian Games™ later in the summer, competitors will be looking to impress their Chef d’Equipe to gain a coveted spot in the team. The highlight of the Festival will be the Rolex Grand Prix taking place on Sunday. Last year’s victor and home favourite, Daniel Deusser, will return to the hallowed grounds of Aachen Soers as the Live Contender of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping following his win at The Dutch Masters in March and will be looking to retain his title Rolex Grand Prix title.  

5* Dressage will also be on show at CHIO Aachen, with the Grand Prix Freestyle CDIO5* taking place on Sunday 03 July. Crowd favourite and last year’s winners Isabell Werth and DSP Quantaz will be looking to add another title to their tally. In addition, organisers of the Show will host a very special retirement ceremony for Isabell Werth’s Bella Rose on the evening of Friday 01 July in the Deutsche Bank Stadium, the venue where the duo won the Deutsche Bank Prize in 2019.

Top level Eventing will take place on from 01 – 02 July with the SAP Cup, with the highlight coming on Saturday morning where the horse and rider combinations will take on the demanding cross-country course which will test the endurance, speed and accuracy of the combinations. Following this, Driving combinations will compete for the prestigious Prize of Schwartz Group title.

This Esme This Esme

Esme Higgs is one of the biggest influencers in the equestrian world – with 730k followers and an incredible 100+ million views on her YouTube channel, as well as over 260k followers on Instagram and a stunning 412k followers on TikTok.

 

What is your earliest equestrian memory?

I am very lucky to have always lived in the countryside, so my earliest equestrian memory was probably growing up on a small holding with donkeys. The local riding school used to ride past my house, and from as young as I remember, I would always ask for riding lessons. My parents always used to say no for various reasons, such as I was too young or too short or too small to ride. My first time on a horse was at a friend’s fifth birthday party. After that they had no excuses, so I started having lessons.

My first pony was called Mickey. I still him have today – he features on the channel a lot. We loaned him for a month first and I wasn’t really expecting him to be my first pony – but we fell in love with him! I am very lucky that I got him at the age of eight – I have been very fortunate with horses that I have had.

How did your career as an Influencer start?

It really happened accidentally. My second horse, Casper, was very green when we got him, so YouTube was something I did for myself to watch his progress. My friends and family would video me riding him and his show jumping rounds, and then I would edit them and post them on YouTube. For me, being able to see our progress gave me a lot of confidence in our partnership. I uploaded them onto YouTube originally because I didn’t have the greatest phone and so it would run out of storage, so YouTube was a safe space that I could store them.

One summer, I decided to do a ‘how to tack up your horse’ video, because I come from a non-equestrian background and I know that sometimes riding schools just teach you how to ride and don’t focus so much on the care side, so I thought this video would be helpful to some people. This was the first video of mine that wasn’t just watched by my friends and family – I think it ended up getting around 1,000 views and I thought that was wild! In posting that video I found my passion, and I started making Vlogs, not because I thought lots of people would watch them, but because I liked making a video diary for myself.

I made quite a lot of videos that I didn’t post because I was too shy or too scared of what people would say. It was really the summer after my GCSEs that YouTube became something I did with all my time and loved doing, and still love doing today. I was that awkward age of 16, where you can’t drive, and I lived in the middle of nowhere – so I made lots of videos of my ponies for fun. I got up to 10,000 subscribers just making videos of my phone, but I never thought it would take off like it has and become my full-time job. At the time, I knew there were a few YouTubers who did it as their main job, but they were very mainstream – producing lifestyle and beauty content – I never thought it would be possible for a sport as niche as horse riding.

What are the steps in building and growing a successful equestrian social media network?

I think that one of the most important things is consistency. I spent three years uploading onto YouTube once a week without earning a penny or thinking it was my job. I did it because I loved it and was always so excited to get home on the weekends and make a video. A lot of people try to do YouTube but after a few months they realise it is hard work and give up. I think the main elements to being successful are consistency, good quality content, being yourself and being original.

Which riders do you follow and who would you say has the most impact with their social channel?

I really enjoy watching Caroline Breen’s stories. They show the behind-the-scenes of her life - a lot of top riders only share content from shows but she shares her dogs, vegetable patch and other things that you do not typically get to see from riders.

Which of the four Majors that make up the Rolex Grand Slam is your favourite?

CHIO Aachen – I am going there for the first time this year and I am so excited! It looks incredible and I am sure that I am going to have the best time!

How important is social media and Influencer strategy when marketing a Major equestrian event?

I think that it is crucial to the future of equestrian sport to be on social media. In the last couple of years, the equestrian world has been brought into the 21st century and has started to see the value of social media. Social media provides more exposure to the sport than ever before, and this is important in ensuring the next generation of equestrians come through. It also enables the sport to be more accessible than ever before, and this is something that I am passionate about and have been working on with my channel. I have been working with some great riding schools and charities that aim to make the sport more accessible. A lot of people have found my channel because they love animals, and they are now interested in equestrian sport or have even started riding themselves!

What is a typical day in the life of This Esme?

It really depends on the day – it is probably easier to say a typical week than a day. But on a typical day when I am at home it usually consists of filming and editing videos, along with riding and looking after my horses. I try to have a point in the evening when I stop working, but I work from home, and I am very driven, so it is hard for me to ‘switch off’. I probably do about 80-hours of work on the channel each week including filming, editing, interviews and zoom calls. There is always more to do but I absolutely love it!

How does the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping enhance the sport?

I think show jumping is the best discipline for people who do not know too much about horses as it is easy to understand. The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping enables a wider audience to be able to watch the world’s best horse and rider combinations compete at the very top level of the sport. There is also a lot of strategy involved in the sport and it is nice that it is not always the same person who wins each competition. I find show jumping such an exhilarating sport to watch – I have been lucky to go to some of the top shows in the world and it is incredible how close you can get to the fences and the horses and riders.

What is your favourite part of the job?

I think I have to say all the incredible people I have met and the amazing stories I have heard. I work with some amazing charities such as Brookes and World Horse Welfare which is a truly incredible experience. Also being able to be with my horses and work with horses is a dream come true for me.

What is your ultimate ambition for your brand and channel and platform?

My absolute dream would be to have a series on a platform such as Netflix or Amazon Prime. It would be mind-blowing if that were to happen.

Who is your favourite rider?

This is really hard – I have so many. One definitely is Trevor Breen; he teaches me and has helped me with my horse Joey – I think he is amazing. I also really admire Holly Smith and I have fortunate to be able to interview her quite a few times at Hickstead.

Who is your favourite Show Jumping horse?

I would have to say Ben Maher’s Explosion W. He is incredible and I have been lucky enough to see him jump at a few different shows.

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